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The Journals Of Lewis and Clark

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part1

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part2

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part3

The Travels of Marco Polo V1 Part4




On departing from the city of Kerman you find the road for seven days most wearisome; and I will tell you how this is.[NOTE 1] The first three days you meet with no water, or next to none. And what little you do meet with is bitter green stuff, so salt that no one can drink it; and in fact if you drink a drop of it, it will set you purging ten times at least by the way. It is the same with the salt which is made from those streams; no one dares to make use of it, because of the excessive purging which it occasions. Hence it is necessary to carry water for the people to last these three days; as for the cattle, they must needs drink of the bad water I have mentioned, as there is no help for it, and their great thirst makes them do so. But it scours them to such a degree that sometimes they die of it. In all those three days you meet with no human habitation; it is all desert, and the extremity of drought. Even of wild beasts there are none, for there is nothing for them to eat.[NOTE 2]

After those three days of desert [you arrive at a stream of fresh water running underground, but along which there are holes broken in here and there, perhaps undermined by the stream, at which you can get sight of it. It has an abundant supply, and travellers, worn with the hardships of the desert, here rest and refresh themselves and their beasts.][NOTE 3]

You then enter another desert which extends for four days; it is very much like the former except that you do see some wild asses. And at the termination of these four days of desert the kingdom of Kerman comes to an end, and you find another city which is called Cobinan.

NOTE 1. [“The present road from Kermán to Kúbenán is to Zerend about 50 miles, to the Sár i Benán 15 miles, thence to Kúbenán 30 miles—total 95 miles. Marco Polo cannot have taken the direct road to Kúbenán, as it took him seven days to reach it. As he speaks of waterless deserts, he probably took a circuitous route to the east of the mountains, viâ Kúhpáyeh and the desert lying to the north of Khabis.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. pp. 496-497.) (Cf. Major Sykes, ch. xxiii.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—This description of the Desert of Kermán, says Mr. Khanikoff, “is very correct. As the only place in the Desert of Lút where water is found is the dirty, salt, bitter, and green water of the rivulet called Shor-Rúd (the Salt River), we can have no doubt of the direction of Marco Polo’s route from Kermán so far.” Nevertheless I do not agree with Khanikoff that the route lay N.E. in the direction of Ambar and Kain, for a reason which will appear under the next chapter. I imagine the route to have been nearly due north from Kermán, in the direction of Tabbas or of Tún. And even such a route would, according to Khanikoff’s own map, pass the Shor-Rúd, though at a higher point.

I extract a few lines from that gentleman’s narrative: “In proportion as we got deeper into the desert, the soil became more and more arid; at daybreak I could still discover a few withered plants of Caligonum and Salsola, and not far from the same spot I saw a lark and another bird of a whitish colour, the last living things that we beheld in this dismal solitude…. The desert had now completely assumed the character of a land accursed, as the natives call it. Not the smallest blade of grass, no indication of animal life vivified the prospect; no sound but such as came from our own caravan broke the dreary silence of the void.” (Mém. p. 176.)

[Major P. Molesworth Sykes (Geog. Jour. X. p. 578) writes: “At Tun, I was on the northern edge of the great Dash-i-Lut (Naked Desert), which lay between us and Kerman, and which had not been traversed, in this particular portion, since the illustrious Marco Polo crossed it, in the opposite direction, when travelling from Kerman to ‘Tonocain’ viâ Cobinan.” Major Sykes (Persia, ch. iii.) seems to prove that geographers have, without sufficient grounds, divided the great desert of Persia into two regions, that to the north being termed Dasht-i-Kavir, and that further south the Dasht-i-Lut—and that Lut is the one name for the whole desert, Dash-i-Lut being almost a redundancy, and that Kavir (the arabic Kafr) is applied to every saline swamp. “This great desert stretches from a few miles out of Tehrán practically to the British frontier, a distance of about 700 miles.”—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—I can have no doubt of the genuineness of this passage from Ramusio. Indeed some such passage is necessary; otherwise why distinguish between three days of desert and four days more of desert? The underground stream was probably a subterraneous canal (called Kanát or Kárez), such as is common in Persia; often conducted from a great distance. Here it may have been a relic of abandoned cultivation. Khanikoff, on the road between Kermán and Yezd, not far west of that which I suppose Marco to be travelling, says: “At the fifteen inhabited spots marked upon the map, they have water which has been brought from a great distance, and at considerable cost, by means of subterranean galleries, to which you descend by large and deep wells. Although the water flows at some depth, its course is tracked upon the surface by a line of more abundant vegetation.” (Ib. p. 200.) Elphinstone says he has heard of such subterranean conduits 36 miles in length. (I. 398.) Polybius speaks of them: “There is no sign of water on the surface; but there are many underground channels, and these supply tanks in the desert, that are known only to the initiated…. At the time when the Persians got the upper hand in Asia, they used to concede to such persons as brought spring-water to places previously destitute of irrigation, the usufruct for five generations. And Taurus being rife with springs, they incurred all the expense and trouble that was needed to form these underground channels to great distances, insomuch that in these days even the people who make use of the water don’t know where the channels begin, or whence the water comes.” (X. 28.)



Cobinan is a large town.[NOTE 1] The people worship Mahommet. There is much Iron and Steel and Ondanique, and they make steel mirrors of great size and beauty. They also prepare both Tutia (a thing very good for the eyes) and Spodium; and I will tell you the process.

They have a vein of a certain earth which has the required quality, and this they put into a great flaming furnace, whilst over the furnace there is an iron grating. The smoke and moisture, expelled from the earth of which I speak, adhere to the iron grating, and thus form Tutia, whilst the slag that is left after burning is the Spodium.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—KUH-BANÁN is mentioned by Mokaddasi (A.D. 985) as one of the cities of Bardesír, the most northerly of the five circles into which he divides Kermán. (See Sprenger, Post- und Reise-routen des Orients, p. 77.) It is the subject of an article in the Geog. Dictionary of Yákút, though it has been there mistranscribed into Kubiyán and Kukiyán. (See Leipzig ed. 1869, iv. p. 316, and Barbier de Meynard, Dict. de la Perse, p. 498.) And it is also indicated by Mr. Abbott (J. R. G. S. XXV. 25) as the name of a district of Kermán, lying some distance to the east of his route when somewhat less than half-way between Yezd and Kermán. It would thus, I apprehend, be on or near the route between Kermán and Tabbas; one which I believe has been traced by no modern traveller. We may be certain that there is now no place at Kuh-Banán deserving the title of une cité grant, nor is it easy to believe that there was in Polo’s time; he applies such terms too profusely. The meaning of the name is perhaps “Hill of the Terebinths, or Wild Pistachioes,” “a tree which grows abundantly in the recesses of bleak, stony, and desert mountains, e.g. about Shamákhi, about Shiraz, and in the deserts of Luristan and Lar.” (Kämpfer, 409, 413.)

[“It is strange that Marco Polo speaks of Kúbenán only on his return journey from Kermán; on the down journey he must have been told that Kúbenán was in close proximity; it is even probable that he passed there, as Persian travellers of those times, when going from Kermán to Yazd, and vice versá, always called at Kúbenán.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. p. 490.) In all histories this name is written Kúbenán, not Kúhbenán; the pronunciation to-day is Kóbenán and Kobenún.—H. C.]

I had thought my identification of Cobinan original, but a communication from Mr. Abbott, and the opportunity which this procured me of seeing his MS. Report already referred to, showed that he had anticipated me many years ago. The following is an extract: “Districts of Kerman * * * Kooh Benan. This is a hilly district abounding in fruits, such as grapes, peaches, pomegranates, sinjid (sweet-willow), walnuts, melons. A great deal of madder and some asafoetida is produced there. This is no doubt the country alluded to by Marco Polo, under the name of Cobinam, as producing iron, brass, and tutty, and which is still said to produce iron, copper, and tootea.” There appear to be lead mines also in the district, as well as asbestos and sulphur. Mr. Abbott adds the names of nine villages, which he was not able to verify by comparison. These are Púz, Tarz, Gújard, Aspaj, Kuh-i-Gabr, Dahnah, Búghín, Bassab, Radk. The position of Kuh Banán is stated to lie between Bahabád (a place also mentioned by Yákút as producing Tutia) and Ráví, but this does not help us, and for approximate position we can only fall back on the note in Mr. Abbott’s field-book, as published in the J. R. G. S., viz. that the District lay in the mountains E.S.E. from a caravanserai 10 miles S.E. of Gudran. To get the seven marches of Polo’s Itinerary we must carry the Town of Kuh Banán as far north as this indication can possibly admit, for Abbott made only five and a half marches from the spot where this observation was made to Kermán. Perhaps Polo’s route deviated for the sake of the fresh water. That a district, such as Mr. Abbott’s Report speaks of, should lie unnoticed, in a tract which our maps represent as part of the Great Desert, shows again how very defective our geography of Persia still is.

[“During the next stage to Darband, we passed ruins that I believe to be those of Marco Polo’s ‘Cobinan’ as the modern Kúhbenán does not at all fit in with the great traveller’s description, and it is just as well to remember that in the East the caravan routes seldom change.” (Captain P. M. Sykes,Geog. Jour. X. p. 580.—See Persia, ch. xxiii.)

Kuh Banán has been visited by Mr. E. Stack, of the Indian Civil Service. (Six Months in Persia, London, 1882, I. 230.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Tutty (i.e. Tutia) is in modern English an impure oxide of zinc, collected from the flues where brass is made; and this appears to be precisely what Polo describes, unless it be that in his account the production of tutia from an ore of zinc is represented as the object and not an accident of the process. What he says reads almost like a condensed translation of Galen’s account of Pompholyx and Spodos: “Pompholyx is produced in copper-smelting as Cadmia is; and it is also produced from Cadmia (carbonate of zinc) when put in the furnace, as is done (for instance) in Cyprus. The master of the works there, having no copper ready for smelting, ordered some pompholyx to be prepared from cadmia in my presence. Small pieces of cadmia were thrown into the fire in front of the copper-blast. The furnace top was covered, with no vent at the crown, and intercepted the soot of the roasted cadmia. This, when collected, constitutes Pompholyx, whilst that which falls on the hearth is called Spodos, a great deal of which is got in copper-smelting.” Pompholyx, he adds, is an ingredient in salves for eye discharges and pustules. (Galen, De Simpl. Medic., p. ix. in Latin ed., Venice, 1576.) Matthioli, after quoting this, says that Pompholyx was commonly known in the laboratories by the Arabic name of Tutia. I see that pure oxide of zinc is stated to form in modern practice a valuable eye-ointment.

Teixeira speaks of tutia as found only in Kermán, in a range of mountains twelve parasangs from the capital. The ore got here was kneaded with water, and set to bake in crucibles in a potter’s kiln. When well baked, the crucibles were lifted and emptied, and the tutia carried in boxes to Hormuz for sale. This corresponds with a modern account in Milburne, which says that the tutia imported to India from the Gulf is made from an argillaceous ore of zinc, which is moulded into tubular cakes, and baked to a moderate hardness. The accurate Garcia da Horta is wrong for once in saying that the tutia of Kermán is no mineral, but the ash of a certain tree called Goan.

(Matth. on Dioscorides, Ven. 1565, pp. 1338-40; Teixeira, Relacion de Persia, p. 121; Milburne’s Or. Commerce, I. 139; Garcia, f. 21 v.; Eng. Cyc., art. Zinc.)

[General A. Houtum-Schindler (Jour. R. As. Soc. N.S. XIII. October, 1881, p. 497) says: “The name Tútíá for collyrium is now not used in Kermán. Tútíá, when the name stands alone, is sulphate of copper, which in other parts of Persia is known as Kát-i-Kebúd; Tútíá-i-sabz (green Tútíá) is sulphate of iron, also called Záj-i-síyah. A piece of Tútíá-i-zard (yellow Tútíá) shown to me was alum, generally called Záj-i-safíd; and a piece of Tútíá-í-safíd (white Tútíá) seemed to be an argillaceous zinc ore. Either of these may have been the earth mentioned by Marco Polo as being put into the furnace. The lampblack used as collyrium is always called Surmah. This at Kermán itself is the soot produced by the flame of wicks, steeped in castor oil or goat’s fat, upon earthenware saucers. In the high mountainous districts of the province, Kúbenán, Páríz, and others, Surmah is the soot of the Gavan plant (Garcia’s goan). This plant, a species of Astragalus, is on those mountains very fat and succulent; from it also exudes the Tragacanth gum. The soot is used dry as an eye-powder, or, mixed with tallow, as an eye-salve. It is occasionally collected on iron gratings.

“Tútíá is the Arabicised word dúdhá, Persian for smokes.

“The Shems-ul-loghát calls Tútíá a medicine for eyes, and a stone used for the fabrication of Surmah. The Tohfeh says Tútíá is of three kinds—yellow and blue mineral Tútíá, Tútíá-i-qalam (collyrium) made from roots, and Tútíá resulting from the process of smelting copper ore. ‘The best Tútíá-i-qalam comes from Kermán.’ It adds, ‘Some authors say Surmah is sulphuret of antimony, others say it is a composition of iron’; I should say any black composition used for the eyes is Surmah, be it lampblack, antimony, iron, or a mixture of all.

“Teixeira’s Tútíá was an impure oxide of zinc, perhaps the above-mentioned Tútíá-i-safíd, baked into cakes; it was probably the East India Company’s Lapis Tútíá, also called Tutty. The Company’s Tutenague and Tutenage, occasionally confounded with Tutty, was the so-called ‘Chinese Copper,’ an alloy of copper, zinc, and iron, brought from China.”

Major Sykes (ch. xxiii.) writes: “I translated Marco’s description of tutia (which is also the modern Persian name), to a khán of Kubenán, and he assured me that the process was the same to-day; spodium he knew nothing about, but the sulphate of zinc is found in the hills to the east of Kubenán.”

Heyd (Com. II. p. 675) says in a note: “Il résulte de l’ensemble de ce passage que les matières désignées par Marco Polo sous le nom de ‘espodie’ (spodium) étaient des scories métalliques; en général, le mot spodium désigne les résidus de la combustion des matières végétales ou des os (de l’ivoire).”—H. C.]



When you depart from this City of Cobinan, you find yourself again in a Desert of surpassing aridity, which lasts for some eight days; here are neither fruits nor trees to be seen, and what water there is is bitter and bad, so that you have to carry both food and water. The cattle must needs drink the bad water, will they nill they, because of their great thirst. At the end of those eight days you arrive at a Province which is called TONOCAIN. It has a good many towns and villages, and forms the extremity of Persia towards the North.[NOTE 1] It also contains an immense plain on which is found the ARBRE SOL, which we Christians call the Arbre Sec; and I will tell you what it is like. It is a tall and thick tree, having the bark on one side green and the other white; and it produces a rough husk like that of a chestnut, but without anything in it. The wood is yellow like box, and very strong, and there are no other trees near it nor within a hundred miles of it, except on one side, where you find trees within about ten miles’ distance. And there, the people of the country tell you, was fought the battle between Alexander and King Darius.[NOTE 2]

The towns and villages have great abundance of everything good, for the climate is extremely temperate, being neither very hot nor very cold. The natives all worship Mahommet, and are a very fine-looking people, especially the women, who are surpassingly beautiful.

NOTE 1.—All that region has been described as “a country divided into deserts that are salt, and deserts that are not salt.” (Vigne, I. 16.) Tonocain, as we have seen (ch. xv. note 1), is the Eastern Kuhistan of Persia, but extended by Polo, it would seem to include the whole of Persian Khorasan. No city in particular is indicated as visited by the traveller, but the view I take of the position of the Arbre Sec, as well as his route through Kuh-Banán, would lead me to suppose that he reached the Province of TUN-O-KAIN about Tabbas.

[“Marco Polo has been said to have traversed a portion of (the Dash-i-Kavir, great Salt Desert) on his supposed route from Tabbas to Damghan, about 1272; although it is more probable that he marched further to the east, and crossed the northern portion of the Dash-i-Lut, Great Sand Desert, separating Khorasan in the south-east from Kermán, and occupying a sorrowful parallelogram between the towns of Neh and Tabbas on the north, and Kermán and Yezd on the south.” (Curzon, Persia, II. pp. 248 and 251.) Lord Curzon adds in a note (p. 248): “The Tunogan of the text which was originally mistaken for Damghan, is correctly explained by Yule as Tun-o- (i.e. and) Káin.” Major Sykes writes (ch. xxiii.): “The section of the Lut has not hitherto been rediscovered, but I know that it is desert throughout, and it is practically certain that Marco ended these unpleasant experiences at Tabas, 150 miles from Kubenán. To-day the district is known as Tun-o-Tabas, Káin being independent of it.”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—This is another subject on which a long and somewhat discursive note is inevitable.

One of the Bulletins of the Soc. de Géographie (sér. III. tom. iii. p. 187) contains a perfectly inconclusive endeavour, by M. Roux de Rochelle, to identify the Arbre Sec or Arbre Sol with a manna-bearing oak alluded to by Q. Curtius as growing in Hyrcania. There can be no doubt that the tree described is, as Marsden points out, a Chínár or Oriental Plane. Mr. Ernst Meyer, in his learned Geschichte der Botanik (Königsberg, 1854-57, IV. 123), objects that Polo’s description of the wood does not answer to that tree. But, with due allowance, compare with his whole account that which Olearius gives of the Chinar, and say if the same tree be not meant. “The trees are as tall as the pine, and have very large leaves, closely resembling those of the vine. The fruit looks like a chestnut, but has no kernel, so it is not eatable. The wood is of a very brown colour, and full of veins; the Persians employ it for doors and window-shutters, and when these are rubbed with oil they are incomparably handsomer than our walnut-wood joinery.” (I. 526.) The Chinar-wood is used in Kashmir for gunstocks.

The whole tenor of the passage seems to imply that some eminent individual Chinar is meant. The appellations given to it vary in the different texts. In the G. T. it is styled in this passage, “The Arbre Seule which the Christians call the Arbre Sec,” whilst in ch. cci. of the same (infra, Bk. IV. ch. v.) it is called “L’Arbre Sol, which in the Book of Alexander is called L’Arbre Seche” Pauthier has here “L’Arbre Solque, que nous appelons L’Arbre Sec,” and in the later passage “L’Arbre Soul, que le Livre Alexandre apelle Arbre Sec;” whilst Ramusio has here “L’Albero del Sole che si chiama per i Cristiani L’Albor Secco,” and does not contain the later passage. So also I think all the old Latin and French printed texts, which are more or less based on Pipino’s version, have “The Tree of the Sun, which the Latins call the Dry Tree.”

[G. Capus says (A travers le roy. de Tamerlan, p. 296) that he found at Khodjakent, the remains of an enormous plane-tree or Chinar, which measured no less than 48 metres (52 yards) in circumference at the base, and 9 metres diameter inside the rotten trunk; a dozen tourists from Tashkent one day feasted inside, and were all at ease.—H. C.]

Pauthier, building as usual on the reading of his own text (Solque), endeavours to show that this odd word represents Thoulk, the Arabic name of a tree to which Forskal gave the title of Ficus Vasta, and this Ficus Vasta he will have to be the same as the Chinar. Ficus Vasta would be a strange name surely to give to a Plane-tree, but Forskal may be acquitted of such an eccentricity. The Tholak (for that seems to be the proper vocalisation) is a tree of Arabia Felix, very different from the Chinar, for it is the well-known Indian Banyan, or a closely-allied species, as may be seen in Forskal’s description. The latter indeed says that the Arab botanists called it Delb, and that (or Dulb) is really a synonym for the Chinar. But De Sacy has already commented upon this supposed application of the name Delb to the Tholak as erroneous. (See Flora Aegyptiaco-Arabica, pp. cxxiv. and 179; Abdallatif, Rel. de l’Egypte, p. 80; J. R. G. S. VIII. 275; Ritter, VI. 662, 679.)

The fact is that the Solque of M. Pauthier’s text is a mere copyist’s error in the reduplication of the pronoun que. In his chief MS. which he cites as A (No. 10,260 of Bibl. Nationale, now Fr. 5631) we can even see how this might easily happen, for one line ends with Solque and the next begins with que. The true reading is, I doubt not, that which this MS. points to, and which the G. Text gives us in the second passage quoted above, viz. Arbre SOL, occurring in Ramusio as Albero del SOLE. To make this easier of acceptation I must premise two remarks: first, that Sol is “the Sun” in both Venetian and Provençal; and, secondly, that in the French of that age the prepositional sign is not necessary to the genitive. Thus, in Pauthier’s own text we find in one of the passages quoted above, “Le Livre Alexandre, i.e. Liber Alexandri;” elsewhere, “Cazan le fils Argon,” “à la mère sa femme,” “Le corps Monseigneur Saint Thomas si est en ceste Province;” in Joinville, “le commandemant Mahommet” “ceux de la Haulequa estoient logiez entour les héberges le soudanc, et establiz pour le cors le soudanc garder;” in Baudouin de Sebourc, “De l’amour Bauduin esprise et enflambée.”

Moreover it is the TREE OF THE SUN that is prominent in the legendary History of Alexander, a fact sufficient in itself to rule the reading. A character in an old English play says:—

    “Peregrine. Drake was a didapper to Mandevill:
Candish and Hawkins, Frobisher, all our Voyagers
Went short of Mandevil. But had he reached
To this place—here—yes, here—this wilderness,
And seen the Trees of the Sun and Moon, that speak
And told King Alexander of his death;
He then
Had left a passage ope to Travellers
That now is kept and guarded by Wild Beasts.”
(Broome’s Antipodes, in Lamb’s Specimens.)

The same trees are alluded to in an ancient Low German poem in honour of
St. Anno of Cologne. Speaking of the Four Beasts of Daniel’s Vision:—

  “The third beast was a Libbard;
Four Eagle’s Wings he had;
This signified the Grecian Alexander,
Who with four Hosts went forth to conquer lands
Even to the World’s End,
Known by its Golden Pillars.
In India he the Wilderness broke through
With Trees twain he there did speak,” etc.
(In Schilteri Thesaurus Antiq. Teuton. tom. i.[1])

These oracular Trees of the Sun and Moon, somewhere on the confines of India, appear in all the fabulous histories of Alexander, from the Pseudo-Callisthenes downwards. Thus Alexander is made to tell the story in a letter to Aristotle: “Then came some of the towns-people and said, ‘We have to show thee something passing strange, O King, and worth thy visiting; for we can show thee trees that talk with human speech.’ So they led me to a certain park, in the midst of which were the Sun and Moon, and round about them a guard of priests of the Sun and Moon. And there stood the two trees of which they had spoken, like unto cypress trees; and round about them were trees like the myrobolans of Egypt, and with similar fruit. And I addressed the two trees that were in the midst of the park, the one which was male in the Masculine gender, and the one that was female in the Feminine gender. And the name of the Male Tree was the Sun, and of the female Tree the Moon, names which were in that language Muthu and Emausae.[2] And the stems were clothed with the skins of animals; the male tree with the skins of he-beasts, and the female tree with the skins of she-beasts…. And at the setting of the Sun, a voice, speaking in the Indian tongue, came forth from the (Sun) Tree; and I ordered the Indians who were with me to interpret it. But they were afraid and would not,” etc. (Pseudo-Callisth. ed. Müller, III. 17.)

The story as related by Firdusi keeps very near to the Greek as just quoted, but does not use the term “Tree of the Sun.” The chapter of the Sháh Námeh containing it is entitled Dídan Sikandar dirakht-i-goyárá, “Alexander’s interview with the Speaking Tree.” (Livre des Rois, V. 229.) In theChanson d’Alixandre of Lambert le Court and Alex. de Bernay, these trees are introduced as follows:—

  “‘Signor,’ fait Alixandre, ‘je vus voel demander,
Se des merveilles d’Inde me saves rien conter.’
Cil li ont respondu: ‘Se tu vius escouter
Ja te dirons merveilles, s’es poras esprover.
La sus en ces desers pues ii Arbres trover
Qui c pies ont de haut, et de grossor sunt per.
Li Solaus et La Lune les ont fait si serer
Que sevent tous langages et entendre et parler.'”
(Ed. 1861 (Dinan), p. 357.)

Maundevile informs us precisely where these trees are: “A 15 journeys in lengthe, goynge be the Deserts of the tother side of the Ryvere Beumare,” if one could only tell where that is![3] A mediaeval chronicler also tells us that Ogerus the Dane (temp. Caroli Magni) conquered all the parts beyond sea from Hierusalem to the Trees of the Sun. In the old Italian romance also of Guerino detto il Meschino, still a chapbook in S. Italy, the Hero (ch. lxiii.) visits the Trees of the Sun and Moon. But this is mere imitation of the Alexandrian story, and has nothing of interest. (Maundevile, pp. 297-298; Fasciculus Temporum in Germ. Script. Pistorii Nidani, II.)

It will be observed that the letter ascribed to Alexander describes the two oracular trees as resembling two cypress-trees. As such the Trees of the Sun and Moon are represented on several extant ancient medals, e.g. on two struck at Perga in Pamphylia in the time of Aurelian. And Eastern story tells us of two vast cypress-trees, sacred among the Magians, which grew in Khorasan, one at Kashmar near Turshiz, and the other at Farmad near Tuz, and which were said to have risen from shoots that Zoroaster brought from Paradise. The former of these was sacrilegiously cut down by the order of the Khalif Motawakkil, in the 9th century. The trunk was despatched to Baghdad on rollers at a vast expense, whilst the branches alone formed a load for 1300 camels. The night that the convoy reached within one stage of the palace, the Khalif was cut in pieces by his own guards. This tree was said to be 1450 years old, and to measure 33-3/4 cubits in girth. The locality of this “Arbor Sol” we see was in Khorasan, and possibly its fame may have been transferred to a representative of another species. The plane, as well as the cypress, was one of the distinctive trees of the Magian Paradise.

In the Peutingerian Tables we find in the N.E. of Asia the rubric “Hic Alexander Responsum accepit,” which looks very like an allusion to the tale of the Oracular Trees. If so, it is remarkable as a suggestion of the antiquity of the Alexandrian Legends, though the rubric may of course be an interpolation. The Trees of the Sun and Moon appear as located in India Ultima to the east of Persia, in a map which is found in MSS. (12th century) of the Floridus of Lambertus; and they are indicated more or less precisely in several maps of the succeeding centuries. (Ouseley’s Travels, I. 387; Dabistan, I. 307-308; Santarem, H. de la Cosmog. II. 189, III. 506-513, etc.)

Nothing could show better how this legend had possessed men in the Middle
Ages than the fact that Vincent of Beauvais discerns an allusion to these
Trees of the Sun and Moon in the blessing of Moses on Joseph (as it runs
in the Vulgate), “de pomis fructuum Solis ac Lunae.” (Deut. xxxiii. 14.)

Marco has mixt up this legend of the Alexandrian Romance, on the authority, as we shall see reason to believe, of some of the recompilers of that Romance, with a famous subject of Christian Legend in that age, the ARBRE SEC or Dry Tree, one form of which is related by Maundevile and by Johan Schiltberger. “A lytille fro Ebron,” says the former, “is the Mount of Mambre, of the whyche the Valeye taketh his name. And there is a Tree of Oke that the Saracens clepen Dirpe, that is of Abraham’s Tyme, the which men clepen THE DRYE TREE.” [Schiltberger adds that the heathen call it Kurru Thereck, i.e. (Turkish) Kúrú Dirakht = Dry Tree.] “And theye seye that it hathe ben there sithe the beginnynge of the World; and was sumtyme grene and bare Leves, unto the Tyme that Oure Lord dyede on the Cros; and thanne it dryede; and so dyden alle the Trees that weren thanne in the World. And summe seyn be hire Prophecyes that a Lord, a Prynce of the West syde of the World, shalle wynnen the Lond of Promyssioun, i.e. the Holy Lond, withe Helpe of Cristene Men, and he schalle do synge a Masse under that Drye Tree, and than the Tree shall wexen grene and bere both Fruyt and Leves. And thorghe that Myracle manye Sarazines and Jewes schulle ben turned to Cristene Feithe. And, therefore, they dou gret Worschipe thereto, and kepen it fulle besyly. And alle be it so that it be drye, natheless yit he berethe great vertue,” etc.

The tradition seems to have altered with circumstances, for a traveller of nearly two centuries later (Friar Anselmo, 1509) describes the oak of Abraham at Hebron as a tree of dense and verdant foliage: “The Saracens make their devotions at it, and hold it in great veneration, for it has remained thus green from the days of Abraham until now; and they tie scraps of cloth on its branches inscribed with some of their writing, and believe that if any one were to cut a piece off that tree he would die within the year.” Indeed even before Maundevile’s time Friar Burchard (1283) had noticed that though the famous old tree was dry, another had sprung from its roots. And it still has a representative.

As long ago as the time of Constantine a fair was held under the Terebinth of Mamre, which was the object of many superstitious rites and excesses. The Emperor ordered these to be put a stop to, and a church to be erected at the spot. In the time of Arculph (end of 7th century) the dry trunk still existed under the roof of this church; just as the immortal Banyan-tree of Prág exists to this day in a subterranean temple in the Fort of Allahabad.

It is evident that the story of the Dry Tree had got a great vogue in the 13th century. In the Jus du Pelerin, a French drama of Polo’s age, the Pilgrim says:—

  “S’ai puis en maint bon lieu et à maint saint esté,
S’ai esté au Sec-Arbre et dusc’à Duresté.”

And in another play of slightly earlier date (Le Jus de St. Nicolas), the King of Africa, invaded by the Christians, summons all his allies and feudatories, among whom appear the Admirals of Coine (Iconium) and Orkenie (Hyrcania), and the Amiral d’outre l’Arbre-Sec (as it were of “the Back of Beyond”) in whose country the only current coin is millstones! Friar Odoric tells us that he heard at Tabriz that the Arbor Secco existed in a mosque of that city; and Clavijo relates a confused story about it in the same locality. Of the Dürre Baum at Tauris there is also a somewhat pointless legend in a Cologne MS. of the 14th century, professing to give an account of the East. There are also some curious verses concerning a mystical Dürre Bom quoted by Fabricius from an old Low German Poem; and we may just allude to that other mystic Arbor Secco of Dante—

    —”una pianta dispogliata
Di fiori e d’altra fronda in ciascun ramo,”

though the dark symbolism in the latter case seems to have a different bearing.

(Maundevile, p. 68; Schiltberger, p. 113; Anselm. in Canisii Thesaurus, IV. 781; Pereg. Quat. p. 81; Niceph. Callist. VIII. 30; Théâtre Français au Moyen Age, pp. 97, 173; Cathay, p. 48; Clavijo, p. 90; Orient und Occident, Göttingen, 1867, vol. i.; Fabricii Vet. Test. Pseud., etc., I. 1133;Dante, Purgat. xxxii. 35.)

But why does Polo bring this Arbre Sec into connection with the Sun Tree of the Alexandrian Legend? I cannot answer this to my own entire satisfaction, but I can show that such a connection had been imagined in his time.

Paulin Paris, in a notice of MS. No. 6985. (Fonds Ancien) of the National Library, containing a version of the Chansons de Geste d’Alixandre, based upon the work of L. Le Court and Alex. de Bernay, but with additions of later date, notices amongst these latter the visit of Alexander to the Valley Perilous, where he sees a variety of wonders, among others the Arbre des Pucelles. Another tree at a great distance from the last is called the ARBRE SEC, and reveals to Alexander the secret of the fate which attends him in Babylon. (Les MSS. Français de la Bibl. du Roi, III. 105.)[4] Again the English version of King Alisaundre, published in Weber’s Collection, shows clearly enough that in its French original the term Arbre Sec was applied to the Oracular Trees, though the word has been miswritten, and misunderstood by Weber. The King, as in the Greek and French passages already quoted, meeting two old churls, asks if they know of any marvel in those parts:—

  “‘Ye, par ma fay,’ quoth heo,
‘A great merveille we wol telle the;
That is hennes in even way
The mountas of ten daies journey,
Thou shalt find trowes[5] two:
Seyntes and holy they buth bo;
Higher than in othir countray all.
ARBESET men heom callith.’
* * * * *
‘Sire Kyng,’ quod on, ‘by myn eyghe
Either Trough is an hundrod feet hygh,
They stondith up into the skye;
That on to the Sonne, sikirlye;
That othir, we tellith the nowe,
Is sakret in the Mone vertue.'”
(Weber, I. 277.)

Weber’s glossary gives “Arbeset = Strawberry Tree, arbous, arbousier, arbutus“; but that is nonsense.

Further, in the French Prose Romance of Alexander, which is contained in the fine volume in the British Museum known as the Shrewsbury Book (Reg. XV. e. 6), though we do not find the Arbre Sec so named, we find it described and pictorially represented. The Romance (fol. xiiii. v.) describes Alexander and his chief companions as ascending a certain mountain by 2500 steps which were attached to a golden chain. At the top they find the golden Temple of the Sun and an old man asleep within. It goes on:—

“Quant le viellart les vit si leur demanda s’ils vouloient veoir les Arbres sacrez de la Lune et du Soleil que nous annuncent les choses qui sont à avenir. Quant Alexandre ouy ce si fut rempli de mult grant ioye. Si lui respondirent, ‘Ouye sur, nous les voulons veoir.’ Et cil lui dist, ‘Se tu es nez de prince malle et de femelle il te convient entrer en celui lieu.’ Et Alexandre lui respondi, ‘Nous somes nez de compagne malle et de femelle.’ Dont se leve le viellart du lit ou il gesoit, et leur dist, ‘Hostez vos vestemens et vos chauces.’ Et Tholomeus et Antigonus et Perdiacas le suivrent. Lors comencèrent à aler parmy la forest qui estoit enclose en merveilleux labour. Illec trouvèrent les arbres semblables à loriers et oliviers. Et estoient de cent pies de haults, et decouroit d’eulz incens ypobaume[6] à grant quantité. Après entrèrent plus avant en la forest, et trouvèrent une arbre durement hault qui n’avoit ne fueille ne fruit. Si seoit sur cet arbre une grant oysel qui avoit en son chief une creste qui estoit semblable au paon, et les plumes du col resplendissants come fin or. Et avoit la couleur de rose. Dont lui dist le viellart, ‘Cet oysel dont vous vous merveillez est appelés Fenis, lequel n’a nul pareil en tout le monde.’ Dont passèrent outre, et allèrent aux Arbres du Soleil et de la Lune. Et quant ils y furent venus, si leur dist le viellart, ‘Regardez en haut, et pensez en votre coeur ce que vous vouldrez demander, et ne le dites de la bouche.’ Alisandre luy demanda en quel language donnent les Arbres response aux gens. Et il lui respondit, ‘L’Arbre du Soleil commence à parler Indien.’ Dont baisa Alexandre les arbres, et comença en son ceur à penser s’il conquesteroit tout le monde et retourneroit en Macedonie atout son ost. Dont lui respondit l’Arbre du Soleil, ‘Alexandre tu seras Roy de tout le monde, mais Macedonie tu ne verras jamais,'” etc.

The appearance of the Arbre Sec in Maps of the 15th century, such as those of Andrea Bianco (1436) and Fra Mauro (1459), may be ascribed to the influence of Polo’s own work; but a more genuine evidence of the prevalence of the legend is found in the celebrated Hereford Map constructed in the 13th century by Richard de Haldingham. This, in the vicinity of India and the Terrestrial Paradise, exhibits a Tree with the rubric “Albor Balsami est Arbor Sicca.”

The legends of the Dry Tree were probably spun out of the words of the Vulgate in Ezekiel xvii. 24: “Humiliavi lignum sublime et exaltavi lignum humile; et siccavi lignum viride et frondescere feci lignum aridum.” Whether the Rue de l’Arbre Sec in Paris derives its name from the legend I know not. [The name of the street is taken from an old sign-board; some say it is derived from the gibbet placed in the vicinity, but this is more than doubtful.—H. C.]

[Illustration: Commentles arbres du soleil et De la lune prophe tiserent la mort alixandre.]

The actual tree to which Polo refers in the text was probably one of those so frequent in Persia, to which age, position, or accident has attached a character of sanctity, and which are styled Dirakht-i-Fazl, Trees of Excellence or Grace, and often receive titles appropriate to Holy Persons. Vows are made before them, and pieces torn from the clothes of the votaries are hung upon the branches or nailed to the trunks. To a tree of such a character, imposing in decay, Lucan compares Pompey:

    “Stat magni nominis umbra.
Qualis frugifero quercus sublimis in agro,
Exuvias veteres populi sacrataque gestans
Dona ducum
* * * * *
—Quamvis primo nutet casura sub Euro,
Tot circum silvae firmo se robore tollant,
Sola tamen colitur.”
(Pharsalia, I. 135.)

The Tree of Mamre was evidently precisely one of this class; and those who have crossed the Suez Desert before railway days will remember such a Dirakht-i-Fazl, an aged mimosa, a veritable Arbre Seul (could we accept that reading), that stood just half-way across the Desert, streaming with the exuviae veteres of Mecca Pilgrims. The majority of such holy trees in Persia appear to be Plane-trees. Admiration for the beauty of this tree seems to have occasionally risen into superstitious veneration from a very old date. Herodotus relates that the Carians, after their defeat by the Persians on the Marsyas, rallied in the sacred grove of Plane-trees at Labranda. And the same historian tells how, some years later, Xerxes on his march to Greece decorated a beautiful Chinar with golden ornaments. Mr. Hamilton, in the same region, came on the remains of a giant of the species, which he thought might possibly be the very same. Pliny rises to enthusiasm in speaking of some noble Plane-trees in Lycia and elsewhere. Chardin describes one grand and sacred specimen, called King Hosain’s Chinar, and said to be more than 1000 years old, in a suburb of Ispahan, and another hung with amulets, rags, and tapers in a garden at Shiraz.[7] One sacred tree mentioned by the Persian geographer Hamd Allah as distinguishing the grave of a holy man at Bostam in Khorasan (the species is not named, at least by Ouseley, from whom I borrow this) comes into striking relation with the passage in our text. The story went that it had been the staff of Mahomed; as such it had been transmitted through many generations, until it was finally deposited in the grave of Abu Abdallah Dásitáni, where it struck root and put forth branches. And it is explicitly called Dirakht-i-Khushk, i.e. literally L’ARBRE SEC.

This last legend belongs to a large class. The staff of Adam, which was created in the twilight of the approaching Sabbath, was bestowed on him in Paradise and handed down successively to Enoch and the line of Patriarchs. After the death of Joseph it was set in Jethro’s garden, and there grew untouched, till Moses came and got his rod from it. In another form of the legend it is Seth who gets a branch of the Tree of Life, and from this Moses afterwards obtains his rod of power. These Rabbinical stories seem in later times to have been developed into the Christian legends of the wood destined to form the Cross, such as they are told in the Golden Legend or by Godfrey of Viterbo, and elaborated in Calderon’s Sibila del Oriente. Indeed, as a valued friend who has consulted the latter for me suggests, probably all the Arbre Sec Legends of Christendom bore mystic reference to the Cross. In Calderon’s play the Holy Rood, seen in vision, is described as a Tree:—

    ——”cuyas hojas,
Secas mustias y marchitas,
Desnudo el tronco dejaban
Que, entre mil copas floridas
De los árboles, el solo
Sin pompa y sin bizaria
Era cadáver del prado.”

There are several Dry-Tree stories among the wonders of Buddhism; one is that of a sacred tree visited by the Chinese pilgrims to India, which had grown from the twig which Sakya, in Hindu fashion, had used as a tooth-brush; and I think there is a like story in our own country of the Glastonbury Thorn having grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.

[“St Francis’ Church is a large pile, neere which, yet a little without the Citty, growes a tree which they report in their legend grew from the Saint’s Staff, which on going to sleepe he fixed in the ground, and at his waking found it had grown a large tree. They affirm that the wood of its decoction cures sundry diseases.” (Evelyn’s Diary, October, 1644.)—H. C.]

In the usual form of the mediaeval legend, Adam, drawing near his end,
sends Seth to the gate of Paradise, to seek the promised Oil of Mercy.
The Angel allows Seth to put his head in at the gate. Doing so (as an old
English version gives it)—

                                       —”he saw a fair Well,
Of whom all the waters on earth cometh, as the Book us doth tell;
Over the Well stood a Tree, with bowës broad and lere
Ac it ne bare leaf ne rind, but as it for-olded were;
A nadder it had beclipt about, all naked withouten skin,
That was the Tree and the Nadder that first made Adam do sin!”

The Adder or Serpent is coiled about the denuded stem; the upper branches reach to heaven, and bear at the top a new-born wailing infant, swathed in linen, whilst (here we quote a French version)—

  “Les larmes qui de lui issoient
Contreval l’Arbre en avaloient;
Adonc regarda l’enfant Seth
Tout contreval de L’ARBRE SECQ;
Les rachines qui le tenoient
Jusques en Enfer s’en aloient,
Les larmes qui de lui issirent
Jusques dedans Enfer cheïrent.”

The Angel gives Seth three kernels from the fruit of the Tree. Seth returns home and finds his father dead. He buries him in the valley of Hebron, and places the three grains under his tongue. A triple shoot springs up of Cedar, Cypress, and Pine, symbolising the three Persons of the Trinity. The three eventually unite into one stem, and this tree survives in various forms, and through various adventures in connection with the Scripture History, till it is found at the bottom of the Pool of Bethesda, to which it had imparted healing Virtue, and is taken thence to form the Cross on which Our Lord suffered.

The English version quoted above is from a MS. of the 14th century in the Bodleian, published by Dr. Morris in his collection of Legends of the Holy Rood. I have modernised the spelling of the lines quoted, without altering the words. The French citation is from a MS. in the Vienna Library, from which extracts are given by Sign. Adolfo Mussafia in his curious and learned tract (Sulla Legenda del Legno della Croce, Vienna, 1870), which gives a full account of the fundamental legend and its numerous variations. The examination of these two works, particularly Sign. Mussafia’s, gives an astonishing impression of the copiousness with which such Christian Mythology, as it may fairly be called, was diffused and multiplied. There are in the paper referred to notices of between fifty and sixty different works (not MSS. or copies of works merely) containing this legend in various European languages.

(Santarem, III. 380, II. 348; Ouseley, I. 359 seqq. and 391; Herodotus, VII. 31; Pliny, XII. 5; Chardin, VII. 410, VIII. 44 and 426; Fabricius, Vet. Test. Pseud. I. 80 seqq.; Cathay, p. 365; Beal’s Fah-Hian, 72 and 78; Pèlerins Bouddhistes, II. 292; Della Valle, II. 276-277.)

[Illustration: Chinar, or Oriental Plane]

He who injured the holy tree of Bostam, we are told, perished the same day: a general belief in regard to those Trees of Grace, of which we have already seen instances in regard to the sacred trees of Zoroaster and the Oak of Hebron. We find the same belief in Eastern Africa, where certain trees, regarded by the natives with superstitious reverence, which they express by driving in votive nails and suspending rags, are known to the European residents by the vulgar name of Devil Trees. Burton relates a case of the verification of the superstition in the death of an English merchant who had cut down such a tree, and of four members of his household. It is the old story which Ovid tells; and the tree which Erisichthon felled was a Dirakht-i-Fazl:

    “Vittae mediam, memoresque tabellae
Sertaque cingebant, voti argumenta potentis.”
(Metamorph. VIII. 744.)

Though the coincidence with our text of Hamd Allah’s Dry Tree is very striking, I am not prepared to lay stress on it as an argument for the geographical determination of Marco’s Arbre Sec. His use of the title more than once to characterise the whole frontier of Khorasan can hardly have been a mere whim of his own: and possibly some explanation of that circumstance will yet be elicited from the Persian historians or geographers of the Mongol era.

Meanwhile it is in the vicinity of Bostam or Damghan that I should incline to place this landmark. If no one very cogent reason points to this, a variety of minor ones do so; such as the direction of the traveller’s journey from Kermán through Kuh Banán; the apparent vicinity of a great Ismailite fortress, as will be noticed in the next chapter; the connection twice indicated (see Prologue, ch. xviii. note 6, and Bk. IV. ch. v.) of the Arbre Sec with the headquarters of Ghazan Khan in watching the great passes, of which the principal ones debouche at Bostam, at which place also buildings erected by Ghazan still exist; and the statement that the decisive battle between Alexander and Darius was placed there by local tradition. For though no such battle took place in that region, we know that Darius was murdered near Hecatompylos. Some place this city west of Bostam, near Damghan; others east of it, about Jah Jerm; Ferrier has strongly argued for the vicinity of Bostam itself. Firdusi indeed places the final battle on the confines of Kermán, and the death of Darius within that province. But this could not have been the tradition Polo met with.

I may add that the temperate climate of Bostam is noticed in words almost identical with Polo’s by both Fraser and Ferrier.

The Chinar abounds in Khorasan (as far as any tree can be said to abound in Persia), and even in the Oases of Tun-o-Kain wherever there is water. Travellers quoted by Ritter notice Chinars of great size and age at Shahrúd, near Bostam, at Meyomid, and at Mehr, west of Sabzawar, which last are said to date from the time of Naoshirwan (7th century). There is a town to the N.W. of Meshid called Chinárán, “The Planes.” P. Della Valle, we may note, calls Tehran “la città dei platani.”

The following note by De Sacy regarding the Chinar has already been quoted by Marsden, and though it may be doubtful whether the term Arbre Sec had any relation to the idea expressed, it seems to me too interesting to be omitted: “Its sterility seems to have become proverbial among certain people of the East. For in a collection of sundry moral sentences pertaining to the Sabaeans or Christians of St. John … we find the following: ‘The vainglorious man is like a showy Plane Tree, rich in boughs but producing nothing, and affording no fruit to its owner.'” The same reproach of sterility is cast at the Plane by Ovid’s Walnut:—

  “At postquam platanis, sterilem praebentibus umbram,
Uberior quâvis arbore venit honos;
Nos quoque fructiferae, si nux modo ponor in illis,
Coepimus in patulas luxuriare comas.” (Nux, 17-20.)

I conclude with another passage from Khanikoff, though put forward in special illustration of what I believe to be a mistaken reading (Arbre Seul): “Where the Chinar is of spontaneous growth, or occupies the centre of a vast and naked plain, this tree is even in our own day invested with a quite exceptional veneration, and the locality often comes to be called ‘The Place of the Solitary Tree.'” (J. R. G. S. XXIX. 345; Ferrier, 69-76; Fraser, 343; Ritter, VIII. 332, XI. 512 seqq.; Della Valle, I. 703; De Sacy’s Abdallatif, p. 81; Khanikoff, Not. p. 38.)

[See in Fr. Zarncke, Der Priester Johannes, II., in the chap. Der Baum des Seth, pp. 127-128, from MS. (14th century) from Cambridge, this curious passage (p. 128): “Tandem rogaverunt eum, ut arborem siccam, de qua multum saepe loqui audierant, liceret videre. Quibus dicebat: ‘Non est appellata arbor sicca recto nomine, sed arbor Seth, quoniam Seth, filius Adae, primi patris nostri, eam plantavit.’ Et ad arborem Seth fecit eos ducere, prohibens eos, ne arborem transmearent, sed [si?] ad patriam suam redire desiderarent. Et cum appropinquassent, de pulcritudine arboris mirati sunt; erat enim magnae immensitatis et miri decoris. Omnium enim colorum varietas inerat arbori, condensitas foliorum et fructuum diversorum; diversitas avium omnium, quae sub coelo sunt. Folia vero invicem se repercutientia dulcissimae melodiae modulamine resonabant, et aves amoenos cantus ultra quam credi potest promebant; et odor suavissimus profudit eos, ita quod paradisi amoenitate fuisse. Et cum admirantes tantam pulcritudinem aspicerent, unus sociorum aliquo eorum maior aetate, cogitans [cogitavit?] intra se, quod senior esset et, si inde rediret, cito aliquo casu mori posset. Et cum haec secum cogitasset, coepit arborem transire, et cum transisset, advocans socios, iussit eos post se ad locum amoenissimum, quem ante se videbat plenum deliciis sibi paratum [paratis?] festinare. At illi retrogressi sunt ad regem, scilicet presbiterum Iohannem. Quos donis amplis ditavit, et qui cum eo morari voluerunt libenter et honorifice detinuit. Alii vero ad patriam reversi sunt.”—In common with Marsden and Yule, I have no doubt that the Arbre Sec is the Chínár. Odoric places it at Tabriz and I have given a very lengthy dissertation on the subject in my edition of this traveller (pp. 21-29), to which I must refer the reader, to avoid increasing unnecessarily the size of the present publication.—H. C.]

[1] “Daz dritte Dier was ein Lebarte
Vier arin Vederich her havite;
Der beceichnote den Criechiskin Alexanderin,
Der mit vier Herin vür aftir Landin,
Unz her die Werilt einde,
Bi guldinin Siulin bikante.
In Indea her die Wusti durchbrach,
Mit zwein Boumin her sich da gesprach,” etc.

[2] It is odd how near the word Emausae comes to the E. African Mwezi; and perhaps more odd that “the elders of U-nya-Mwezi (‘the Land of the Moon’) declare that their patriarchal ancestor became after death the first Tree, and afforded shade to his children and descendants. According to the Arabs the people still perform pilgrimage to a holy tree, and believe that the penalty of sacrilege in cutting off a twig would be visited by sudden and mysterious death.” (Burton in F. R. G. S. XXIX. 167-168.)

[3] “The River Buemar, in the furthest forests of India,” appears to come up in one of the versions of Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle, though I do not find it in Müller’s edition. (See Zacher’s Pseudo-Callisthenes, p. 160.) ‘Tis perhaps Ab-i-Ámú!

[4] It is right to notice that there may be some error in the reference of Paulin Paris; at least I could not trace the Arbre Sec in the MS. which he cites, nor in the celebrated Bodleian Alexander, which appears to contain the same version of the story. [The fact is that Paulin Paris refers to theArbre, but without the word sec, at the top of the first column of fol. 79 recto of the MS. No. Fr. 368 (late 6985).—H. C.]

[5] Trees.

[6] Opobalsamum.

[7] A recent traveler in China gives a perfectly similar description of sacred trees in Shansi. Many bore inscriptions in large letters. “If you pray, you will certainly be heard.”—Rev. A. Williamson, Journeys in N. China, I. 163, where there is a cut of such a tree near Taiyuanfu. (See this work, I. ch. xvi.) Mr. Williamson describes such a venerated tree, an ancient acacia, known as the Acacia of the T’ang, meaning that it existed under that Dynasty (7th to 10th century). It is renowned for its healing virtues, and every available spot on its surface was crowded with votive tablets and inscriptions. (Ib. 303.)



Mulehet is a country in which the Old Man of the Mountain dwelt in former days; and the name means “Place of the Aram.” I will tell you his whole history as related by Messer Marco Polo, who heard it from several natives of that region.

The Old Man was called in their language ALOADIN. He had caused a certain valley between two mountains to be enclosed, and had turned it into a garden, the largest and most beautiful that ever was seen, filled with every variety of fruit. In it were erected pavilions and palaces the most elegant that can be imagined, all covered with gilding and exquisite painting. And there were runnels too, flowing freely with wine and milk and honey and water; and numbers of ladies and of the most beautiful damsels in the world, who could play on all manner of instruments, and sung most sweetly, and danced in a manner that it was charming to behold. For the Old Man desired to make his people believe that this was actually Paradise. So he had fashioned it after the description that Mahommet gave of his Paradise, to wit, that it should be a beautiful garden running with conduits of wine and milk and honey and water, and full of lovely women for the delectation of all its inmates. And sure enough the Saracens of those parts believed that it was Paradise!

Now no man was allowed to enter the Garden save those whom he intended to be his ASHISHIN. There was a Fortress at the entrance to the Garden, strong enough to resist all the world, and there was no other way to get in. He kept at his Court a number of the youths of the country, from 12 to 20 years of age, such as had a taste for soldiering, and to these he used to tell tales about Paradise, just as Mahommet had been wont to do, and they believed in him just as the Saracens believe in Mahommet. Then he would introduce them into his garden, some four, or six, or ten at a time, having first made them drink a certain potion which cast them into a deep sleep, and then causing them to be lifted and carried in. So when they awoke, they found themselves in the Garden.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—Says the venerable Sire de Joinville: “Le Vieil de la Montaingne ne créoit pas en Mahommet, ainçois créoit en la Loi de Haali, qui fu Oncle Mahommet.” This is a crude statement, no doubt, but it has a germ of truth. Adherents of the family of ‘Ali as the true successors of the Prophet existed from the tragical day of the death of Husain, and among these, probably owing to the secrecy with which they were compelled to hold their allegiance, there was always a tendency to all manner of strange and mystical doctrines; as in one direction to the glorification of ‘Ali as a kind of incarnation of the Divinity, a character in which his lineal representatives were held in some manner to partake; in another direction to the development of Pantheism, and release from all positive creed and precepts. Of these Aliites, eventually called Shiáhs, a chief sect, and parent of many heretical branches, were the Ismailites, who took their name, from the seventh Imam, whose return to earth they professed to expect at the end of the World. About A.D. 1090 a branch of the Ismaili stock was established by Hassan, son of Sabah, in the mountainous districts of Northern Persia; and, before their suppression by the Mongols, 170 years later, the power of the quasi-spiritual dynasty which Hassan founded had spread over the Eastern Kohistan, at least as far as Káïn. Their headquarters were at Alamút (“Eagle’s Nest”), about 32 miles north-east of Kazwin, and all over the territory which they held they established fortresses of great strength. De Sacy seems to have proved that they were called Hashíshíya or Hashíshín, from their use of the preparation of hemp called Hashísh; and thence, through their system of murder and terrorism, came the modern application of the word Assassin. The original aim of this system was perhaps that of a kind of Vehmgericht, to punish or terrify orthodox persecutors who were too strong to be faced with the sword. I have adopted in the text one of the readings of the G. Text Asciscin, as expressing the original word with the greatest accuracy that Italian spelling admits. In another author we find it as Chazisii (see Bollandists, May, vol. ii. p. xi.); Joinville calls them Assacis; whilst Nangis and others corrupt the name into Harsacidae, and what not.

The explanation of the name MULEHET as it is in Ramusio, or Mulcete as it is in the G. Text (the last expressing in Rusticiano’s Pisan tongue the strongly aspirated Mulhete), is given by the former: “This name of Mulehet is as much as to say in the Saracen tongue ‘The Abode of Heretics,'” the fact being that it does represent the Arabic term Mulhid, pl. Muláhidah, “Impii, heretici,” which is in the Persian histories (as of Rashíduddín and Wassáf) the title most commonly used to indicate this community, and which is still applied by orthodox Mahomedans to the Nosairis, Druses, and other sects of that kind, more or less kindred to the Ismaili. The writer of the Tabakat-i-Násiri calls the sectarians of Alamút Muláhidat-ul-maut, “Heretics of Death.”[1] The curious reading of the G. Text which we have preserved “vaut à dire des Aram,” should be read as we have rendered it. I conceive that Marco was here unconsciously using one Oriental term to explain another. For it seems possible to explain Aram only as standing for Harám, in the sense of “wicked” or “reprobate.”

In Pauthier’s Text, instead of des aram, we find “veult dire en françois Diex Terrien,” or Terrestrial God. This may have been substituted, in the correction of the original rough dictation, from a perception that the first expression was unintelligible. The new phrase does not indeed convey the meaning of Muláhidah, but it expresses a main characteristic of the heretical doctrine. The correction was probably made by Polo himself; it is certainly of very early date. For in the romance of Bauduin de Sebourc, which I believe dates early in the 14th century, the Caliph, on witnessing the extraordinary devotion of the followers of the Old Man (see note 1, ch. xxiv.), exclaims:

  “Par Mahon …
Vous estes Diex en terre, autre coze n’i a!” (I. p. 360.)

So also Fr. Jacopo d’Aqui in the Imago Mundi, says of the Assassins: “Dicitur iis quod sunt in Paradiso magno Dei Terreni“—expressions, no doubt, taken in both cases from Polo’s book.

Khanikoff, and before him J. R. Forster, have supposed that the name Mulehet represents Alamút. But the resemblance is much closer and more satisfactory to Mulhid or Muláhidah. Mulhet is precisely the name by which the kingdom of the Ismailites is mentioned in Armenian history, andMulihet is already applied in the same way by Rabbi Benjamin in the 12th century, and by Rubruquis in the 13th. The Chinese narrative of Hulaku’s expedition calls it the kingdom of Mulahi. (Joinville, p. 138; J. As. sér. II., tom. xii. 285; Benj. Tudela, p. 106; Rub. p. 265; Rémusat, Nouv. Mélanges, I. 176; Gaubil, p. 128; Pauthier, pp. cxxxix.-cxli.; Mon. Hist. Patr. Scriptorum, III. 1559, Turin, 1848.) [Cf. on Mulehet, melahideh, Heretics, plural of molhid. Heretic, my note, pp. 476-482 of my ed. of Friar Odoric.—H. C.]

“Old Man of the Mountain” was the title applied by the Crusaders to the chief of that branch of the sect which was settled in the mountains north of Lebanon, being a translation of his popular Arabic title Shaikh-ul-Jibal. But according to Hammer this title properly belonged, as Polo gives it, to the Prince of Alamút, who never called himself Sultan, Malik, or Amir; and this seems probable, as his territory was known as the Balad-ul-Jibal. (See Abulf. in Büsching, V. 319.)

[1] Elliot, II. 290.



When therefore they awoke, and found themselves in a place so charming, they deemed that it was Paradise in very truth. And the ladies and damsels dallied with them to their hearts’ content, so that they had what young men would have; and with their own good will they never would have quitted the place.

Now this Prince whom we call the Old One kept his Court in grand and noble style, and made those simple hill-folks about him believe firmly that he was a great Prophet. And when he wanted one of his Ashishin to send on any mission, he would cause that potion whereof I spoke to be given to one of the youths in the garden, and then had him carried into his Palace. So when the young man awoke, he found himself in the Castle, and no longer in that Paradise; whereat he was not over well pleased. He was then conducted to the Old Man’s presence, and bowed before him with great veneration as believing himself to be in the presence of a true Prophet. The Prince would then ask whence he came, and he would reply that he came from Paradise! and that it was exactly such as Mahommet had described it in the Law. This of course gave the others who stood by, and who had not been admitted, the greatest desire to enter therein.

So when the Old Man would have any Prince slain, he would say to such a youth: “Go thou and slay So and So; and when thou returnest my Angels shall bear thee into Paradise. And shouldst thou die, natheless even so will I send my Angels to carry thee back into Paradise.” So he caused them to believe; and thus there was no order of his that they would not affront any peril to execute, for the great desire they had to get back into that Paradise of his. And in this manner the Old One got his people to murder any one whom he desired to get rid of. Thus, too, the great dread that he inspired all Princes withal, made them become his tributaries in order that he might abide at peace and amity with them.[NOTE 1]

I should also tell you that the Old Man had certain others under him, who copied his proceedings and acted exactly in the same manner. One of these was sent into the territory of Damascus, and the other into Curdistan.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—Romantic as this story is, it seems to be precisely the same that was current over all the East. It is given by Odoric at length, more briefly by a Chinese author, and again from an Arabic source by Hammer in the Mines de l’Orient.

The following is the Chinese account as rendered by Rémusat: “The soldiers of this country (Mulahi) are veritable brigands. When they see a lusty youth, they tempt him with the hope of gain, and bring him to such a point that he will be ready to kill his father or his elder brother with his own hand. After he is enlisted, they intoxicate him, and carry him in that state into a secluded retreat, where he is charmed with delicious music and beautiful women. All his desires are satisfied for several days, and then (in sleep) he is transported back to his original position. When he awakes, they ask what he has seen. He is then informed that if he will become an Assassin, he will be rewarded with the same felicity. And with the texts and prayers that they teach him they heat him to such a pitch that whatever commission be given him he will brave death without regret in order to execute it.”

The Arabic narrative is too long to extract. It is from a kind of historical romance called The Memoirs of Hakim, the date of which Hammer unfortunately omits to give. Its close coincidence in substance with Polo’s story is quite remarkable. After a detailed description of the Paradise, and the transfer into it of the aspirant under the influence of bang, on his awaking and seeing his chief enter, he says, “O chief! am I awake or am I dreaming?” To which the chief: “O such an One, take heed that thou tell not the dream to any stranger. Know that Ali thy Lord hath vouchsafed to show thee the place destined for thee in Paradise…. Hesitate not a moment therefore in the service of the Imam who thus deigns to intimate his contentment with thee,” and so on.

William de Nangis thus speaks of the Syrian Shaikh, who alone was known to the Crusaders, though one of their historians (Jacques de Vitry, in Bongars, I. 1062) shows knowledge that the headquarters of the sect was in Persia: “He was much dreaded far and near, by both Saracens and Christians, because he so often caused princes of both classes indifferently to be murdered by his emissaries. For he used to bring up in his palace youths belonging to his territory, and had them taught a variety of languages, and above all things to fear their Lord and obey him unto death, which would thus become to them an entrance into the joys of Paradise. And whosoever of them thus perished in carrying out his Lord’s behests was worshipped as an angel.” As an instance of the implicit obedience rendered by the Fidáwí or devoted disciples of the Shaikh, Fra Pipino and Marino Sanuto relate that when Henry Count of Champagne (titular King of Jerusalem) was on a visit to the Old Man of Syria, one day as they walked together they saw some lads in white sitting on the top of a high tower. The Shaikh, turning to the Count, asked if he had any subjects as obedient as his own? and without giving time for reply made a sign to two of the boys, who immediately leapt from the tower, and were killed on the spot. The same story is told in the Cento Novelle Antiche, as happening when the Emperor Frederic was on a visit (imaginary) to the Veglio. And it is introduced likewise as an incident in the Romance of Bauduin de Sebourc:

“Vollés veioir merveilles? dist li Rois Seignouris”

to Bauduin and his friends, and on their assenting he makes the signal to one of his men on the battlements, and in a twinkling

  “Quant le vinrent en l’air salant de tel avis,
Et aussi liément, et aussi esjois,
Qu’il deust conquester mil livres de parisis!
Ains qu’il venist a tière il fut mors et fenis,
Surles roches agues desrompis corps et pis,”[1] etc.

(Cathay, 153; Rémusat, Nouv. Mél. I. 178; Mines de l’Orient, III. 201 seqq.; Nangis in Duchesne, V. 332; Pipino in Muratori, IX. 705; Defrémery in J. As. sér. V. tom. v. 34 seqq.; Cent. Nov. Antiche, Firenze, 1572, p. 91; Bauduin de Sebourc, I. 359.)

The following are some of the more notable murders or attempts at murder ascribed to the Ismailite emissaries either from Syria or from Persia:—

A.D. 1092. Nizum-ul-Mulk, formerly the powerful minister of Malik Shah,
Seljukian sovereign of Persia, and a little later his two sons. 1102. The
Prince of Homs, in the chief Mosque of that city. 1113. Maudúd, Prince of
Mosul, in the chief Mosque of Damascus. About 1114. Abul Muzafar ‘Ali,
Wazir of Sanjár Shah, and Chakar Beg, grand-uncle of the latter. 1116.
Ahmed Yel, Prince of Maragha, at Baghdad, in the presence of Mahomed,
Sultan of Persia. 1121. The Amir Afdhal, the powerful Wazir of Egypt, at
Cairo. 1126. Kasim Aksonkor, Prince of Mosul and Aleppo, in the Great
Mosque at Mosul. 1127. Moyin-uddin, Wazir of Sanjár Shah of Persia. 1129.
Amír Billah, Khalif of Egypt. 1131. Taj-ul Mulúk Buri, Prince of Damascus.
1134. Shams-ul-Mulúk, son of the preceding. 1135-38. The Khalif
Mostarshid, the Khalif Rashíd, and Daùd, Seljukian Prince of Azerbaijan.
1149. Raymond, Count of Tripoli. 1191. Kizil Arzlan, Prince of Azerbaijan.
1192. Conrad of Montferrat, titular King of Jerusalem; a murder which King
Richard has been accused of instigating. 1217. Oghulmish, Prince of

And in 1174 and 1176 attempts to murder the great Saladin. 1271. Attempt to murder Ala’uddin Juwaini, Governor of Baghdad, and historian of the Mongols. 1272. The attempt to murder Prince Edward of England at Acre.

In latter years the Fidáwí or Ismailite adepts appear to have let out their services simply as hired assassins. Bibars, in a letter to his court at Cairo, boasts of using them when needful. A Mahomedan author ascribes to Bibars the instigation of the attempt on Prince Edward. (Makrizi, II. 100; J. As. XI. 150.)

NOTE 2.—Hammer mentions as what he chooses to call “Grand Priors” under the Shaikh or “Grand Master” at Alamút, the chief, in Syria, one in the Kuhistan of E. Persia (Tun-o-Kain), one in Kumis (the country about Damghan and Bostam), and one in Irák; he does not speak of any in Kurdistan. Colonel Monteith, however, says, though without stating authority or particulars, “There were several divisions of them (the Assassins) scattered throughout Syria, Kurdistan (near the Lake of Wan), and Asia Minor, but all acknowledging as Imaum or High Priest the Chief residing at Alamut.” And it may be noted that Odoric, a generation after Polo, puts the Old Man at Millescorte, which looks like Malasgird, north of Lake Van, (H. des Assass. p. 104; J. R. G. S. III. 16; Cathay, p. ccxliii.)

[1] This story has been transferred to Peter the Great, who is alleged to have exhibited the docility of his subjects in the same way to the King of Denmark, by ordering a Cossack to jump from the Round Tower at Copenhagen, on the summit of which they were standing.



Now it came to pass, in the year of Christ’s Incarnation, 1252, that Alaü, Lord of the Tartars of the Levant, heard tell of these great crimes of the Old Man, and resolved to make an end of him. So he took and sent one of his Barons with a great Army to that Castle, and they besieged it for three years, but they could not take it, so strong was it. And indeed if they had had food within it never would have been taken. But after being besieged those three years they ran short of victual, and were taken. The Old Man was put to death with all his men [and the Castle with its Garden of Paradise was levelled with the ground]. And since that time he has had no successor; and there was an end to all his villainies.[NOTE 1]

Now let us go back to our journey.

NOTE 1.—The date in Pauthier is 1242; in the G. T. and in Ramusio 1262.
Neither is right, nor certainly could Polo have meant the former.

When Mangku Kaan, after his enthronement (1251), determined at a great Kurultai or Diet, on perfecting the Mongol conquests, he entrusted his brother Kúblái with the completion of the subjugation of China and the adjacent countries, whilst his brother Hulaku received the command of the army destined for Persia and Syria. The complaints that came from the Mongol officers already in Persia determined him to commence with the reduction of the Ismailites, and Hulaku set out from Karakorum in February, 1254. He proceeded with great deliberation, and the Oxus was not crossed till January, 1256. But an army had been sent long in advance under “one of his Barons,” Kitubuka Noyan, and in 1253 it was already actively engaged in besieging the Ismailite fortresses. In 1255, during the progress of the war, ALA’UDDIN MAHOMED, the reigning Prince of the Assassins (mentioned by Polo as Alaodin), was murdered at the instigation of his son Ruknuddin Khurshah, who succeeded to the authority. A year later (November, 1256) Ruknuddin surrendered to Hulaku. [Bretschneider (Med. Res. II. p. 109) says that Alamút was taken by Hulaku, 20th December, 1256.—H. C.] The fortresses given up, all well furnished with provisions and artillery engines, were 100 in number. Two of them, however, Lembeser and Girdkuh, refused to surrender. The former fell after a year; the latter is stated to have held out for twenty years— actually, as it would seem, about fourteen, or till December, 1270. Ruknuddin was well treated by Hulaku, and despatched to the Court of the Kaan. The accounts of his death differ, but that most commonly alleged, according to Rashiduddin, is that Mangku Kaan was irritated at hearing of his approach, asking why his post-horses should be fagged to no purpose, and sent executioners to put Ruknuddin to death on the road. Alamút had been surrendered without any substantial resistance. Some survivors of the sect got hold of it again in 1275-1276, and held out for a time. The dominion was extinguished, but the sect remained, though scattered indeed and obscure. A very strange case that came before Sir Joseph Arnould in the High Court at Bombay in 1866 threw much new light on the survival of the Ismailis.

Some centuries ago a Dai or Missionary of the Ismailis, named Sadruddín, made converts from the Hindu trading classes in Upper Sind. Under the name of Khojas the sect multiplied considerably in Sind, Kach’h, and Guzerat, whence they spread to Bombay and to Zanzibar. Their numbers in Western India are now probably not less than 50,000 to 60,000. Their doctrine, or at least the books which they revere, appear to embrace a strange jumble of Hindu notions with Mahomedan practices and Shiah mysticism, but the main characteristic endures of deep reverence, if not worship, of the person of their hereditary Imám. To his presence, when he resided in Persia, numbers of pilgrims used to betake themselves, and large remittances of what we may call Ismail’s Pence were made to him. Abul Hassan, the last Imám but one of admitted lineal descent from the later Shaikhs of Alamút, and claiming (as they did) descent from the Imám Ismail and his great ancestor ‘Ali Abu Tálib, had considerable estates at Meheláti, between Kúm and Hamadán, and at one time held the Government of Kermán. His son and successor, Shah Khalilullah, was killed in a brawl at Yezd in 1818. Fatteh ‘Ali Sháh, fearing Ismailite vengeance, caused the homicide to be severely punished, and conferred gifts and honours on the young Imám, Agha Khan, including the hand of one of his own daughters. In 1840 Agha Khan, who had raised a revolt at Kermán, had to escape from Persia. He took refuge in Sind, and eventually rendered good service both to General Nott at Kandahár and to Sir C. Napier in Sind, for which he receives a pension from our Government.

For many years this genuine Heir and successor of the Viex de la Montaingne has had his headquarters at Bombay, where he devotes, or for a long time did devote, the large income that he receives from the faithful to the maintenance of a racing stable, being the chief patron and promoter of the Bombay Turf!

A schism among the Khojas, owing apparently to the desire of part of the well-to-do Bombay community to sever themselves from the peculiarities of the sect and to set up as respectable Sunnis, led in 1866 to an action in the High Court, the object of which was to exclude Agha Khan from all rights over the Khojas, and to transfer the property of the community to the charge of Orthodox Mahomedans. To the elaborate addresses of Mr. Howard and Sir Joseph Arnould, on this most singular process before an English Court, I owe the preceding particulars. The judgment was entirely in favour of the Old Man of the Mountain.

[Illustration: H. H. Agha Khán Meheláti, late Representative of the Old
Man of the Mountain.

“Le Seigneur Viel, que je vous ai dit si tient sa court … et fait à croire à cele simple gent qui li est entour que il est un grant prophete.”]

[Sir Bartle Frere writes of Agha Khan in 1875: “Like his ancestor, the Old One of Marco Polo’s time, he keeps his court in grand and noble style. His sons, popularly known as ‘The Persian Princes,’ are active sportsmen, and age has not dulled the Agha’s enjoyment of horse-racing. Some of the best blood of Arabia is always to be found in his stables. He spares no expense on his racers, and no prejudice of religion or race prevents his availing himself of the science and skill of an English trainer or jockey when the races come round. If tidings of war or threatened disturbance should arise from Central Asia or Persia, the Agha is always one of the first to hear of it, and seldom fails to pay a visit to the Governor or to some old friend high in office to hear the news and offer the services of a tried sword and an experienced leader to the Government which has so long secured him a quiet refuge for his old age.” Agha Khan died in April, 1881, at the age of 81. He was succeeded by his son Agha Ali Sháh, one of the members of the Legislative Council. (See The Homeward Mail, Overland Times of India, of 14th April, 1881.)]

The Bohras of Western India are identified with the Imámí-Ismáilís in some books, and were so spoken of in the first edition of this work. This is, however, an error, originally due, it would seem, to Sir John Malcolm. The nature of their doctrine, indeed, seems to be very much alike, and the Bohras, like the Ismáilís, attach a divine character to their Mullah or chief pontiff, and make a pilgrimage to his presence once in life. But the persons so reverenced are quite different; and the Bohras recognise all the 12 Imáms of ordinary Shiahs. Their first appearance in India was early, the date which they assign being A.H. 532 (A.D. 1137-1138). Their chief seat was in Yemen, from which a large emigration to India took place on its conquest by the Turks in 1538. Ibn Batuta seems to have met with Bohras at Gandár, near Baroch, in 1342. (Voyages, IV. 58.)

A Chinese account of the expedition of Hulaku will be found in Rémusat’s Nouveaux Mélanges (I.), and in Pauthier’s Introduction. (Q. R. 115-219, esp. 213; Ilch. vol. i.; J. A. S. B. VI. 842 seqq.) [A new and complete translation has been given by Dr. E. Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. 112 seqq.—H. C.]

There is some account of the rock of Alamút and its exceedingly slender traces of occupancy, by Colonel Monteith, in J. R. G. S. III. 15, and again by Sir Justin Sheil in vol. viii. p. 431. There does not seem to be any specific authority for assigning the Paradise of the Shaikh to Alamút; and it is at least worthy of note that another of the castles of the Muláhidah, destroyed by Hulaku, was called Firdús, i.e. Paradise. In any case, I see no reason to suppose that Polo visited Alamút, which would have been quite out of the road that he is following.

It is possible that “the Castle,” to which he alludes at the beginning of next chapter, and which set him off upon this digression, was Girdkuh.[1] It has not, as far as I know, been identified by modern travellers, but it stood within 10 or 12 miles of Damghan (to the west or north-west). It is probably the Tigado of Hayton, of which he thus speaks: “The Assassins had an impregnable castle called Tigado, which was furnished with all necessaries, and was so strong that it had no fear of attack on any side. Howbeit, Haloön commanded a certain captain of his that he should take 10,000 Tartars who had been left in garrison in Persia, and with them lay siege to the said castle, and not leave it till he had taken it. Wherefore the said Tartars continued besieging it for seven whole years, winter and summer, without being able to take it. At last the Assassins surrendered, from sheer want of clothing, but not of victuals or other necessaries.” So Ramusio; other copies read “27 years.” In any case it corroborates the fact that Girdkuh was said to have held out for an extraordinary length of time. If Rashiduddin is right in naming 1270 as the date of surrender, this would be quite a recent event when the Polo party passed, and draw special attention to the spot. (J. As. sér. IV. tom. xiii. 48; Ilch. I. 93, 104, 274; Q. R. p. 278; Ritter, VIII. 336.) A note which I have from Djihan Numa (I. 259) connects Girdkuh with a district called Chinar. This may be a clue to the term Arbre Sec; but there are difficulties.

[1] [Ghirdkuh means “round mountain”; it was in the district of Kumis, three parasangs west of Damghan. Under the year 1257, the Yüan shi mentions the taking of the fortress of Ghi-rh-du-kie by K’ie-di-bu-hua. (Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 122; II. 110.)—H. C.]



On leaving the Castle, you ride over fine plains and beautiful valleys, and pretty hill-sides producing excellent grass pasture, and abundance of fruits, and all other products. Armies are glad to take up their quarters here on account of the plenty that exists. This kind of country extends for six days’ journey, with a goodly number of towns and villages, in which the people are worshippers of Mahommet. Sometimes also you meet with a tract of desert extending for 50 or 60 miles, or somewhat less, and in these deserts you find no water, but have to carry it along with you. The beasts do without drink until you have got across the desert tract and come to watering places.

So after travelling for six days as I have told you, you come to a city called SAPURGAN. It has great plenty of everything, but especially of the very best melons in the world. They preserve them by paring them round and round into strips, and drying them in the sun. When dry they are sweeter than honey, and are carried off for sale all over the country. There is also abundance of game here, both of birds and beasts.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—SAPURGAN may closely express the pronunciation of the name of the city which the old Arabic writers call Sabúrkán and Shabúrkán, now called Shibrgán, lying some 90 miles west of Balkh; containing now some 12,000 inhabitants, and situated in a plain still richly cultivated, though on the verge of the desert.[1] But I have seen no satisfactory solution of the difficulties as to the time assigned. This in the G. T. and in Ramusio is clearly six days. The point of departure is indeed uncertain, but even if we were to place that at Sharakhs on the extreme verge of cultivated Khorasan, which would be quite inconsistent with other data, it would have taken the travellers something like double the time to reach Shíbrgán. Where I have followed the G. T. in its reading “quant l’en a chevauchés six jornée tel che je vos ai contés, adunc treuve l’en une cité,” etc., Pauthier’s text has “Et quant l’en a chevauchié les vi cités, si treuve l’en une cité qui a nom Sapurgan,” and to this that editor adheres. But I suspect that cités is a mere lapsus for journées as in the reading in one of his three MSS. What could be meant by “chevauchier les vi cités“?

Whether the true route be, as I suppose, by Nishapúr and Meshid, or, as Khanikoff supposes, by Herat and Badghis, it is strange that no one of those famous cities is mentioned. And we feel constrained to assume that something has been misunderstood in the dictation, or has dropt out of it. As a probable conjecture I should apply the six days to the extent of pleasing country described in the first lines of the chapter, and identify it with the tract between Sabzawur and the cessation of fertile country beyond Meshid. The distance would agree well, and a comparison with Fraser or Ferrier will show that even now the description, allowing for the compression of an old recollection, would be well founded; e.g. on the first march beyond Nishapúr: “Fine villages, with plentiful gardens full of trees, that bear fruit of the highest flavour, may be seen all along the foot of the hills, and in the little recesses formed by the ravines whence issues the water that irrigates them. It was a rich and pleasing scene, and out of question by far the most populous and cultivated tract that I had seen in Persia…. Next morning we quitted Derrood … by a very indifferent but interesting road, the glen being finely wooded with walnut, mulberry, poplar, and willow-trees, and fruit-tree gardens rising one above the other upon the mountain-side, watered by little rills…. These gardens extended for several miles up the glen; beyond them the bank of the stream continued to be fringed with white sycamore, willow, ash, mulberry, poplar, and woods that love a moist situation,” and so on, describing a style of scenery not common in Persia, and expressing diffusely (as it seems to me) the same picture as Polo’s two lines. In the valley of Nishapúr, again (we quote Arthur Conolly): “‘This is Persia!’ was the vain exclamation of those who were alive to the beauty of the scene; ‘this is Persia!’ Bah! Bah! What grass, what grain, what water! Bah! Bah!

  [‘If there be a Paradise on the face of the Earth,
This is it! This is it! This is it!'”]—(I. 209.)

(See Fraser, 405, 432-433, 434, 436.)

With reference to the dried melons of Shibrgán, Quatremère cites a history of Herat, which speaks of them almost in Polo’s words. Ibn Batuta gives a like account of the melons of Khárizm: “The surprising thing about these melons is the way the people have of slicing them, drying them in the sun, and then packing them in baskets, just as Malaga figs are treated in our part of the world. In this state they are sent to the remotest parts of India and China. There is no dried fruit so delicious, and all the while I lived at Delhi, when the travelling dealers came in, I never missed sending for these dried strips of melon.” (Q. R. 169; I. B. III. 15.) Here, in the 14th century, we seem to recognise the Afghan dealers arriving in the cities of Hindustan with their annual camel-loads of dried fruits, just as we have seen them in our own day.

[1] The oldest form of the name is Asapuragán, which Rawlinson thinks traceable to its being an ancient seat of the Asa or Asagartii. (J. R. A. S. XI. 63.)



Balc is a noble city and a great, though it was much greater in former days. But the Tartars and other nations have greatly ravaged and destroyed it. There were formerly many fine palaces and buildings of marble, and the ruins of them still remain. The people of the city tell that it was here that Alexander took to wife the daughter of Darius.

Here, you should be told, is the end of the empire of the Tartar Lord of the Levant. And this city is also the limit of Persia in the direction between east and north-east.[NOTE 1]

Now, let us quit this city, and I will tell you of another country called

When you have quitted the city of which I have been speaking, you ride some 12 days between north-east and east, without finding any human habitation, for the people have all taken refuge in fastnesses among the mountains, on account of the Banditti and armies that harassed them. There is plenty of water on the road, and abundance of game; there are lions too. You can get no provisions on the road, and must carry with you all that you require for these 12 days.[NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.—BALKH, “the mother of cities,” suffered mercilessly from Chinghiz. Though the city had yielded without resistance, the whole population was marched by companies into the plain, on the usual Mongol pretext of counting them, and then brutally massacred. The city and its gardens were fired, and all buildings capable of defence were levelled. The province long continued to be harried by the Chaghataian inroads. Ibn Batuta, sixty years after Marco’s visit, describes the city as still in ruins, and as uninhabited: “The remains of its mosques and colleges,” he says, “are still to be seen, and the painted walls traced with azure.” It is no doubt the Vaeq (Valq) of Clavijo, “very large, and surrounded by a broad earthen wall, thirty paces across, but breached in many parts.” He describes a large portion of the area within as sown with cotton. The account of its modern state in Burnes and Ferrier is much the same as Ibn Batuta’s, except that they found some population; two separate towns within the walls according to the latter. Burnes estimates the circuit of the ruins at 20 miles. The bulk of the population has been moved since 1858 to Takhtapul, 8 miles east of Balkh, where the Afghan Government is placed.

(Erdmann, 404-405; I. B. III. 59; Clavijo, p. 117; Burnes, II. 204-206; Ferrier, 206-207.)

According to the legendary history of Alexander, the beautiful Roxana was the daughter of Darius, and her father in a dying interview with Alexander requested the latter to make her his wife:—

  “Une fille ai mult bele; se prendre le voles.
Vus en seres de l’mont tout li mius maries,” etc.
(Lambert Le Court, p. 256.)

NOTE 2.—The country called Dogana in the G. Text is a puzzle. In the former edition I suggested Juzgána, a name which till our author’s time was applied to a part of the adjoining territory, though not to that traversed in quitting Balkh for the east. Sir H. Rawlinson is inclined to refer the name to Dehgán, or “villager,” a term applied in Bactria, and in Kabul, to Tajik peasantry[1]. I may also refer to certain passages in Baber’s “Memoirs,” in which he speaks of a place, and apparently a district, called Dehánah, which seems from the context to have lain in the vicinity of the Ghori, or Aksarai River. There is still a village in the Ghori territory, called Dehánah. Though this is worth mentioning, where the true solution is so uncertain, I acknowledge the difficulty of applying it. I may add also that Baber calls the River of Ghori or Aksarai, the Dogh-ábah. (Sprenger, P. und R. Routen, p. 39 and Map; Anderson in J. A. S. B. XXII. 161; Ilch. II. 93; Baber, pp. 132, 134, 168, 200, also 146.)

NOTE 3.—Though Burnes speaks of the part of the road that we suppose necessarily to have been here followed from Balkh towards Taican, as barren and dreary, he adds that the ruins of aqueducts and houses proved that the land had at one time been peopled, though now destitute of water, and consequently of inhabitants. The country would seem to have reverted at the time of Burnes’ journey, from like causes, nearly to the state in which Marco found it after the Mongol devastations.

Lions seem to mean here the real king of beasts, and not tigers, as hereafter in the book. Tigers, though found on the S. and W. shores of the Caspian, do not seem to exist in the Oxus valley. On the other hand, Rashiduddin tells us that, when Hulaku was reviewing his army after the passage of the river, several lions were started, and two were killed. The lions are also mentioned by Sidi ‘Ali, the Turkish Admiral, further down the valley towards Hazárasp: “We were obliged to fight with the lions day and night, and no man dared to go alone for water.” Moorcroft says of the plain between Kunduz and the Oxus: “Deer, foxes, wolves, hogs, and lions are numerous, the latter resembling those in the vicinity of Hariana” (in Upper India). Wood also mentions lions in Kuláb, and at Kila’chap on the Oxus. Q. Curtius tells how Alexander killed a great lion in the country north of the Oxus towards Samarkand. [A similar story is told of Timur in The Mulfuzat Timury, translated by Major Charles Stewart, 1830 (p. 69): “During the march ‘(near Balkh)’ two lions made their appearance, one of them a male, the other a female. I (Timur) resolved to kill them myself, and having shot them both with arrows, I considered this circumstance as a lucky omen.”—H. C.] (Burnes, II. 200; Q. R. 155; Ilch. I. 90; J. As. IX. 217; Moorcroft, II. 430; Wood, ed. 1872, pp. 259,260; Q. C. VII. 2.)

[1] It may be observed that the careful Elphinstone distinguishes from this general application of Dehgán or Dehkán, the name Deggán applied to a tribe “once spread over the north-east of Afghanistan, but now as a separate people only in Kunar and Laghman.”



After those twelve days’ journey you come to a fortified place called TAICAN, where there is a great corn market.[NOTE 1] It is a fine place, and the mountains that you see towards the south are all composed of salt. People from all the countries round, to some thirty days’ journey, come to fetch this salt, which is the best in the world, and is so hard that it can only be broken with iron picks. ‘Tis in such abundance that it would supply the whole world to the end of time. [Other mountains there grow almonds and pistachioes, which are exceedingly cheap.][NOTE 2]

When you leave this town and ride three days further between north-east and east, you meet with many fine tracts full of vines and other fruits, and with a goodly number of habitations, and everything to be had very cheap. The people are worshippers of Mahommet, and are an evil and a murderous generation, whose great delight is in the wine shop; for they have good wine (albeit it be boiled), and are great topers; in truth, they are constantly getting drunk. They wear nothing on the head but a cord some ten palms long twisted round it. They are excellent huntsmen, and take a great deal of game; in fact they wear nothing but the skins of the beasts they have taken in the chase, for they make of them both coats and shoes. Indeed, all of them are acquainted with the art of dressing skins for these purposes.[NOTE 3]

When you have ridden those three days, you find a town called CASEM,[NOTE 4] which is subject to a count. His other towns and villages are on the hills, but through this town there flows a river of some size. There are a great many porcupines hereabouts, and very large ones too. When hunted with dogs, several of them will get together and huddle close, shooting their quills at the dogs, which get many a serious wound thereby.[NOTE 5]

This town of Casem is at the head of a very great province, which is also called Casem. The people have a peculiar language. The peasants who keep cattle abide in the mountains, and have their dwellings in caves, which form fine and spacious houses for them, and are made with ease, as the hills are composed of earth.[NOTE 6]

After leaving the town of Casem, you ride for three days without finding a single habitation, or anything to eat or drink, so that you have to carry with you everything that you require. At the end of those three days you reach a province called Badashan, about which we shall now tell you.[NOTE 7]

NOTE 1.—The Taican of Polo is the still existing TALIKAN in the province of Kataghan or Kunduz, but it bears the former name (Tháîkán) in the old Arab geographies. Both names are used by Baber, who says it lay in the Ulugh Bágh, or Great Garden, a name perhaps acquired by the Plains of Talikan in happier days, but illustrating what Polo says of the next three days’ march. The Castle of Talikan resisted Chinghiz for seven months, and met with the usual fate (1221). [In the Travels of Sidi Ali, son of Housaïn (Jour. Asiat., October, 1826, p. 203), “Talikan, in the country of Badakhschan” is mentioned.—H. C.] Wood speaks of Talikan in 1838 as a poor place of some 300 or 400 houses, mere hovels; a recent account gives it 500 families. Market days are not usual in Upper India or Kabul, but are universal in Badakhshan and the Oxus provinces. The bazaars are only open on those days, and the people from the surrounding country then assemble to exchange goods, generally by barter. Wood chances to note: “A market was held at Talikan…. The thronged state of the roads leading into it soon apprised us that the day was no ordinary one.” (Abulf. inBüsching, V. 352; Sprenger, p. 50; P. de la Croix, I. 63; Baber, 38, 130; Burnes, III. 8; Wood, 156; Pandit Manphul’s Report.)

The distance of Talikan from Balkh is about 170 miles, which gives very short marches, if twelve days be the correct reading. Ramusio has two days, which is certainly wrong. XII. is easily miswritten for VII., which would be a just number.

NOTE 2.—In our day, as I learn from Pandit Manphul, the mines of rock salt are at Ak Bulák, near the Lataband Pass, and at Darúná, near the Kokcha, and these supply the whole of Badakhshan, as well as Kunduz and Chitrál. These sites are due east of Talikan, and are in Badakhshan. But there is a mine at Chál, S.E. or S.S.E. of Talikan and within the same province. There are also mines of rock-salt near the famous “stone bridge” in Kuláb, north of the Oxus, and again on the south of the Alaï steppe. (Papers by Manphul and by Faiz Baksh; also Notes by Feachenko.)

Both pistachioes and wild almonds are mentioned by Pandit Manphul; and see Wood (p. 252) on the beauty and profusion of the latter.

NOTE 3.—Wood thinks that the Tajik inhabitants of Badakhshan and the adjoining districts are substantially of the same race as the Kafir tribes of Hindu Kúsh. At the time of Polo’s visit it would seem that their conversion to Islam was imperfect. They were probably in that transition state which obtains in our own day for some of the Hill Mahomedans adjoining the Kafirs on the south side of the mountains the reproachful title of Nímchah Musulmán, or Half-and-halfs. Thus they would seem to have retained sundry Kafir characteristics; among others that love of wine which is so strong among the Kafirs. The boiling of the wine is noted by Baber (a connoisseur) as the custom of Nijrao, adjoining, if not then included in, Kafir-land; and Elphinstone implies the continuance of the custom when he speaks of the Kafirs as having wine of the consistence of jelly, and very strong. The wine of Kápishí, the Greek Kapisa, immediately south of Hindu Kúsh, was famous as early as the time of the Hindu grammarian Pánini, say three centuries B.C. The cord twisted round the head was probably also a relic of Kafir costume: “Few of the Kafirs cover the head, and when they do, it is with a narrow band or fillet of goat’s hair … about a yard or a yard and a half in length, wound round the head.” This style of head-dress seems to be very ancient in India, and in the Sanchi sculptures is that of the supposed Dasyas. Something very similar, i.e. a scanty turban cloth twisted into a mere cord, and wound two or three times round the head, is often seen in the Panjab to this day.

The Postín or sheepskin coat is almost universal on both sides of the Hindu Kúsh; and Wood notes: “The shoes in use resemble half-boots, made of goatskin, and mostly of home manufacture.” (Baber, 145; J. A. S. B. XXVIII. 348, 364; Elphinst. II. 384; Ind. Antiquary, I. 22; Wood, 174, 220; J. R. A. S. XIX. 2.)

NOTE 4.—Marsden was right in identifying Scassem or Casem with the Kechem of D’Anville’s Map, but wrong in confounding the latter with the Kishmabad of Elphinstone—properly, I believe, Kishnabad—in the Anderab Valley. Kashm, or Keshm, found its way into maps through Pétis de la Croix, from whom probably D’Anville adopted it; but as it was ignored by Elphinstone (or by Macartney, who constructed his map), and by Burnes, it dropped out of our geography. Indeed, Wood does not notice it except as giving name to a high hill called the Hill of Kishm, and the position even of that he omits to indicate. The frequent mention of Kishm in the histories of Timur and Humayun (e.g. P. de la Croix, I. 167; N. et E. XIV. 223, 491; Erskine’s Baber and Humayun, II. 330, 355, etc.) had enabled me to determine its position within tolerably narrow limits; but desiring to fix it definitely, application was made through Colonel Maclagan to Pandit Manphul, C.S.I., a very intelligent Hindu gentleman, who resided for some time in Badakhshan as agent of the Panjab Government, and from him arrived a special note and sketch, and afterwards a MS. copy of a Report,[1] which set the position of Kishm at rest.

KISHM is the Kilissemo, i.e. Karisma or Krishma, of Hinen Tsang; and Sir H. Rawlinson has identified the Hill of Kishm with the Mount Kharesem of the Zend-Avesta, on which Jamshid placed the most sacred of all the fires. It is now a small town or large village on the right bank of the Varsach river, a tributary of the Kokcha. It was in 1866 the seat of a district ruler under the Mír of Badakhshan, who was styled the Mír of Kishm, and is the modern counterpart of Marco’s Quens or Count. The modern caravan-road between Kunduz and Badakhshan does not pass through Kishm, which is left some five miles to the right, but through the town of Mashhad, which stands on the same river. Kishm is the warmest district of Badakhshan. Its fruits are abundant, and ripen a month earlier than those at Faizabad, the capital of that country. The Varsach or Mashhad river is Marco’s “Flum auques grant.” Wood (247) calls it “the largest stream we had yet forded in Badakhshan.”

It is very notable that in Ramusio, in Pipino, and in one passage of the G. Text, the name is written Scasem, which has led some to suppose the Ish-Káshm of Wood to be meant. That place is much too far east—in fact, beyond the city which forms the subject of the next chapter. The apparent hesitation, however, between the forms Casem and Scasem suggests that the Kishm of our note may formerly have been termed S’kashm or Ish-Kashm, a form frequent in the Oxus Valley, e.g. Ish-Kimish, Ish-Káshm, Ishtrakh, Ishpingao. General Cunningham judiciously suggests (Ladak, 34) that this form is merely a vocal corruption of the initial S before a consonant, a combination which always troubles the Musulman in India, and converts every Mr. Smith or Mr. Sparks into Ismit or Ispak Sahib.

[There does not seem to me any difficulty about this note: “Shibarkhan
(Afghan Turkistan), Balkh, Kunduz, Khanabad, Talikan, Kishm, Badakhshan.”
I am tempted to look for Dogana at Khanabad.—H. C.]

NOTE 5.—The belief that the porcupine projected its quills at its assailants was an ancient and persistent one—”cum intendit cutem missiles,” says Pliny (VIII. 35, and see also Aelian. de Nat. An. I. 31), and is held by the Chinese as it was held by the ancients, but is universally rejected by modern zoologists. The huddling and coiling appears to be a true characteristic, for the porcupine always tries to shield its head.

NOTE 6.—The description of Kishm as a “very great” province is an example of a bad habit of Marco’s, which recurs in the next chapter. What he says of the cave-dwellings may be illustrated by Burnes’s account of the excavations at Bamian, in a neighbouring district. These “still form the residence of the greater part of the population…. The hills at Bamian are formed of indurated clay and pebbles, which renders this excavation a matter of little difficulty.” Similar occupied excavations are noticed by Moorcroft at Heibak and other places towards Khulm.

Curiously, Pandit Manphul says of the districts about the Kokcha: “Both their hills and plains are productive, the former being mostly composed of earth, having very little of rocky substance.”

NOTE 7.—The capital of Badakhshan is now Faizabad, on the right bank of the Kokcha, founded, according to Manphul, by Yarbeg, the first Mír of the present dynasty. When this family was displaced for a time, by Murad Beg of Kunduz, about 1829, the place was abandoned for years, but is now re-occupied. The ancient capital of Badakhshan stood in the Dasht (or Plain) of Bahárak, one of the most extensive pieces of level in Badakhshan, in which the rivers Vardoj, Zardeo, and Sarghalan unite with the Kokcha, and was apparently termed Jaúzgún. This was probably the city called Badakhshan by our traveller.[2] As far as I can estimate, by the help of Wood and the map I have compiled, this will be from 100 to 110 miles distant from Talikan, and will therefore suit fairly with the six marches that Marco lays down.

Wood, in 1838, found the whole country between Talikan and Faizabad nearly as depopulated as Marco found that between Kishm and Badakhshan. The modern depopulation was due—in part, at least—to the recent oppressions and razzias of the Uzbeks of Kunduz. On their decline, between 1840 and 1850, the family of the native Mírs was reinstated, and these now rule at Faizabad, under an acknowledgment, since 1859, of Afghan supremacy.

[1] Since published in J. K. G. S. vol. xlii.

[2] Wilford, in the end of the 18th century, speaks of Faizabad as “the new capital of Badakhshan, built near the site of the old one.” The Chinese map (vide J. R. G. S. vol. xlii.) represents the city of Badakhshan to the east of Faizabad. Faiz Bakhsh, in an unpublished paper, mentions a tradition that the Lady Zobeidah, dear to English children, the daughter of Al-Mansúr and wife of Ar-Rashid, delighted to pass the spring at Jauzgún, and built a palace there, “the ruins of which are still visible.”



Badashan is a Province inhabited by people who worship Mahommet, and have a peculiar language. It forms a very great kingdom, and the royalty is hereditary. All those of the royal blood are descended from King Alexander and the daughter of King Darius, who was Lord of the vast Empire of Persia. And all these kings call themselves in the Saracen tongue ZULCARNIAIN, which is as much as to say Alexander; and this out of regard for Alexander the Great.[NOTE 1]

It is in this province that those fine and valuable gems the Balas Rubies are found. They are got in certain rocks among the mountains, and in the search for them the people dig great caves underground, just as is done by miners for silver. There is but one special mountain that produces them, and it is called SYGHINAN. The stones are dug on the king’s account, and no one else dares dig in that mountain on pain of forfeiture of life as well as goods; nor may any one carry the stones out of the kingdom. But the king amasses them all, and sends them to other kings when he has tribute to render, or when he desires to offer a friendly present; and such only as he pleases he causes to be sold. Thus he acts in order to keep the Balas at a high value; for if he were to allow everybody to dig, they would extract so many that the world would be glutted with them, and they would cease to bear any value. Hence it is that he allows so few to be taken out, and is so strict in the matter.[NOTE 2]

There is also in the same country another mountain, in which azure is found; ’tis the finest in the world, and is got in a vein like silver. There are also other mountains which contain a great amount of silver ore, so that the country is a very rich one; but it is also (it must be said) a very cold one.[NOTE 3] It produces numbers of excellent horses, remarkable for their speed. They are not shod at all, although constantly used in mountainous country, and on very bad roads. [They go at a great pace even down steep descents, where other horses neither would nor could do the like. And Messer Marco was told that not long ago they possessed in that province a breed of horses from the strain of Alexander’s horse Bucephalus, all of which had from their birth a particular mark on the forehead. This breed was entirely in the hands of an uncle of the king’s; and in consequence of his refusing to let the king have any of them, the latter put him to death. The widow then, in despite, destroyed the whole breed, and it is now extinct.[NOTE 4]]

The mountains of this country also supply Saker falcons of excellent flight, and plenty of Lanners likewise. Beasts and birds for the chase there are in great abundance. Good wheat is grown, and also barley without husk. They have no olive oil, but make oil from sesamé, and also from walnuts.[NOTE 5]

[In the mountains there are vast numbers of sheep—400, 500, or 600 in a single flock, and all of them wild; and though many of them are taken, they never seem to get aught the scarcer.[NOTE 6]

Those mountains are so lofty that ’tis a hard day’s work, from morning till evening, to get to the top of them. On getting up, you find an extensive plain, with great abundance of grass and trees, and copious springs of pure water running down through rocks and ravines. In those brooks are found trout and many other fish of dainty kinds; and the air in those regions is so pure, and residence there so healthful, that when the men who dwell below in the towns, and in the valleys and plains, find themselves attacked by any kind of fever or other ailment that may hap, they lose no time in going to the hills; and after abiding there two or three days, they quite recover their health through the excellence of that air. And Messer Marco said he had proved this by experience: for when in those parts he had been ill for about a year, but as soon as he was advised to visit that mountain, he did so and got well at once.[NOTE 7]]

[Illustration: Ancient Silver Patera of debased Greek art, formerly in the possession of the Princes of Badakhshan, now in the India Museum. (Four-ninths of the diameter of the Original.)]

In this kingdom there are many strait and perilous passes, so difficult to force that the people have no fear of invasion. Their towns and villages also are on lofty hills, and in very strong positions.[NOTE 8] They are excellent archers, and much given to the chase; indeed, most of them are dependent for clothing on the skins of beasts, for stuffs are very dear among them. The great ladies, however, are arrayed in stuffs, and I will tell you the style of their dress! They all wear drawers made of cotton cloth, and into the making of these some will put 60, 80, or even 100 ells of stuff. This they do to make themselves look large in the hips, for the men of those parts think that to be a great beauty in a woman.[NOTE 9]

NOTE 1.—”The population of Badakhshan Proper is composed of Tajiks, Turks, and Arabs, who are all Sunnis, following the orthodox doctrines of the Mahomedan law, and speak Persian and Turki, whilst the people of the more mountainous tracts are Tajiks of the Shiá creed, having separate provincial dialects or languages of their own, the inhabitants of the principal places combining therewith a knowledge of Persian. Thus, the Shighnáni [sometimes called Shighni] is spoken in Shignán and Roshán, the Ishkáshami in Ishkásham, the Wakhi in Wakhán, the Sanglichì in Sanglich and Zebák, and the Minjáni in Minján. All these dialects materially differ from each other.” (Pand. Manphul.) It may be considered almost certain that Badakhshan Proper also had a peculiar dialect in Polo’s time. Mr. Shaw speaks of the strong resemblance to Kashmírís of the Badakhshán people whom he had seen.

The Legend of the Alexandrian pedigree of the Kings of Badakhshan is spoken of by Baber, and by earlier Eastern authors. This pedigree is, or was, claimed also by the chiefs of Karátegín, Darwáz, Roshán, Shighnán, Wakhán, Chitrál, Gilgít, Swát, and Khapolor in Bálti. Some samples of those genealogies may be seen in that strange document called “Gardiner’s Travels.”

In Badakhshan Proper the story seems now to have died out. Indeed, though Wood mentions one of the modern family of Mírs as vaunting this descent, these are in fact Sáhibzádahs of Samarkand, who were invited to the country about the middle of the 17th century, and were in no way connected with the old kings.

The traditional claims to Alexandrian descent were probably due to a genuine memory of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom, and might have had an origin analogous to the Sultan’s claim to be “Caesar of Rome”; for the real ancestry of the oldest dynasties on the Oxus was to be sought rather among the Tochari and Ephthalites than among the Greeks whom they superseded.

The cut on p. 159 presents an interesting memorial of the real relation of Bactria to Greece, as well as of the pretence of the Badakhshan princes to Grecian descent. This silver patera was sold by the family of the Mírs, when captives, to the Minister of the Uzbek chief of Kunduz, and by him to Dr. Percival Lord in 1838. It is now in the India Museum. On the bottom is punched a word or two in Pehlvi, and there is also a word incised in Syriac or Uighúr. It is curious that a pair of paterae were acquired by Dr. Lord under the circumstances stated. The other, similar in material and form, but apparently somewhat larger, is distinctly Sassanian, representing a king spearing a lion.

Zu-‘lkarnain, “the Two-Horned,” is an Arabic epithet of Alexander, with which legends have been connected, but which probably arose from the horned portraits on his coins. [Capus, l.c. p. 121, says, “Iskandr Zoulcarneïn or Alexander le Cornu, horns being the emblem of strength.” —H. C.] The term appears in Chaucer (Troil. and Cress. III. 931) in the sense of non plus:—

  “I am, till God me better minde send,
At dulcarnon, right at my wittes end.”

And it is said to have still colloquial existence in that sense in some corners of England. This use is said to have arisen from the Arabic application of the term (Bicorne) to the 47th Proposition of Euclid. (Baber, 13; N. et E. XIV. 490; N. An. des V. xxvi. 296; Burnes, III. 186 seqq.; Wood, 155, 244; J. A. S. B. XXII. 300; Ayeen Akbery, II. 185; see N. and Q. 1st Series, vol. v.)

NOTE 2.—I have adopted in the text for the name of the country that one of the several forms in the G. Text which comes nearest to the correct name, viz. Badascian. But Balacian also appears both in that and in Pauthier’s text. This represents Balakhshán, a form also sometimes used in the East. Hayton has Balaxcen, Clavijo Balaxia, the Catalan Map Baldassia. From the form Balakhsh the Balas Ruby got its name. As Ibn Batuta says: “‘The Mountains of Badakhshan have given their name to the Badakhshi Ruby, vulgarly called Al Balaksh.” Albertus Magnus says the Balagius is the female of the Carbuncle or Ruby Proper, “and some say it is his house, and hath thereby got the name, quasi Palatium Carbunculi!” The Balais or Balas Ruby is, like the Spinel, a kind inferior to the real Ruby of Ava. The author of the Masálak al Absár says the finest Balas ever seen in the Arab countries was one presented to Malek ‘Adil Ketboga, at Damascus; it was of a triangular form and weighed 50 drachms. The prices of Balasci in Europe in that age may be found in Pegolotti, but the needful problems are hard to solve.

  “No sapphire in Inde, no Rubie rich of price,
There lacked than, nor Emeraud so grene,
Balès, Turkès, ne thing to my device.”
(Chaucer, ‘Court of Love.’)

  “L’altra letizia, che m’era già nota,
Preclara cosa mi si fece in vista,
Qual fin balascio in che lo Sol percuoto.”
(Paradiso, ix. 67.)

Some account of the Balakhsh from Oriental sources will be found in J.
sér V. tom. xi. 109.

(I. B. III. 59, 394; Alb. Mag. de Mineralibus; Pegol. p. 307; N. et E. XIII. i. 246.)

[“The Mohammedan authors of the Mongol period mention Badakhshan several times in connection with the political and military events of that period. Guchluk, the ‘gurkhan of Karakhitai,’ was slain in Badakhshan in 1218 (d’Ohsson, I. 272). In 1221, the Mongols invaded the country (l.c. I. 272). On the same page, d’Ohsson translates a short account of Badakhshan by Yakut (+ 1229), stating that this mountainous country is famed for its precious stones, and especially rubies, called Balakhsh.” (Bretschneider, Med. Res. II. p. 66.)—H. C.]

The account of the royal monopoly in working the mines, etc., has continued accurate down to our own day. When Murad Beg of Kunduz conquered Badakhshan some forty years ago, in disgust at the small produce of the mines, he abandoned working them, and sold nearly all the population of the place into slavery! They continue still unworked, unless clandestinely. In 1866 the reigning Mír had one of them opened at the request of Pandit Manphul, but without much result.

The locality of the mines is on the right bank of the Oxus, in the district of Ish Káshm and on the borders of SHIGNAN, the Syghinan of the text. (P. Manph.; Wood, 206; N. Ann. des. V. xxvi. 300.)

[The ruby mines are really in the Gháran country, which extends along both banks of the Oxus. Barshar is one of the deserted villages; the boundary between Gháran and Shignán is the Kuguz Parin (in Shighai dialect means “holes in the rock”); the Persian equivalent is “Rafak-i-Somakh.” (Cf. Captain Trotter, Forsyth’s Mission, p. 277.)—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The mines of Lájwurd (whence l’Azur and Lazuli) have been, like the Ruby mines, celebrated for ages. They lie in the Upper Valley of the Kokcha, called Korán, within the Tract called Yamgán, of which the popular etymology is Hamah-Kán, or “All-Mines,” and were visited by Wood in 1838. The produce now is said to be of very inferior quality, and in quantity from 30 to 60 poods (36 lbs each) annually. The best quality sells at Bokhara at 30 to 60 tillas, or 12_l._ to 24_l._ the pood (Manphúl). Surely it is ominous when a British agent writing of Badakhshan products finds it natural to express weights in Russian poods!

The Yamgán Tract also contains mines of iron, lead, alum, salammoniac, sulphur, ochre, and copper. The last are not worked. But I do not learn of any silver mines nearer than those of Paryán in the Valley of Panjshir, south of the crest of the Hindu-Kúsh, much worked in the early Middle Ages. (See Cathay, p. 595.)

NOTE 4.—The Kataghan breed of horses from Badakhshan and Kunduz has still a high reputation. They do not often reach India, as the breed is a favourite one among the Afghan chiefs, and the horses are likely to be appropriated in transit. (Lumsden, Mission to Kandahar, p. 20.)

[The Kirghiz between the Yangi Hissar River and Sirikol are the only people using the horse generally in the plough, oxen being employed in the plains, and yaks in Sirikol. (Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon, p. 222, Forsyth’s Mission.)—H. C.]

What Polo heard of the Bucephalid strain was perhaps but another form of a story told by the Chinese, many centuries earlier, when speaking of this same region. A certain cave was frequented by a wonderful stallion of supernatural origin. Hither the people yearly brought their mares, and a famous breed was derived from the foals. (Rém. N. Mél. As. I. 245.)

NOTE 5.—The huskless barley of the text is thus mentioned by Burnes in the vicinity of the Hindu-Kúsh: “They rear a barley in this elevated country which has no husk, and grows like wheat; but it is barley.” It is not properly huskless, but when ripe it bursts the husk and remains so loosely attached as to be dislodged from it by a slight shake. It is grown abundantly in Ladak and the adjoining Hill States. Moorcroft details six varieties of it cultivated there. The kind mentioned by Marco and Burnes is probably that named by Royle Hordeum Aegiceras, and which has been sent to England under the name of Tartarian Wheat, though it is a genuine barley. Naked barley is mentioned by Galen as grown in Cappadocia; and Matthioli speaks of it as grown in France in his day (middle of 16th century). It is also known to the Arabs, for they have a name for it— Sult. (Burnes, III. 205; Moorc. II. 148 seqq.; Galen, de Aliment. Facult. Lat. ed. 13; Matthioli, Ven. 1585, p. 420; Eng. Cyc., art. Hordeum.)

Sesamé is mentioned by P. Manphul as one of the products of Badakhshan; linseed is another, which is also used for oil. Walnut-trees abound, but neither he nor Wood mention the oil. We know that walnut oil is largely manufactured in Kashmir. (Moorcroft, II. 148.)

[See on Saker and Lanner Falcons (F. Sakar, Briss.; F. lanarius,
Schlegel) the valuable paper by Edouard Blanc, Sur l’utilisation des
Oiseaux de proie en Asie centrale
in Rev. des Sciences natur.
, 20th June, 1895.

“Hawking is the favourite sport of Central Asian Lords,” says G. Capus. (A travers le royaume de Tamerlan, p. 132. See pp. 132-134.)

The Mirza says (l.c. p. 157) that the mountains of Wakhán “are only noted for producing a breed of hawks or falcons which the hardy Wâkhânis manage to catch among the cliffs. These hawks are much esteemed by the chiefs of Badakhshan, Bokhara, etc. They are celebrated for their swiftness, and known by their white colour.”—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—These wild sheep are probably the kind called Kachkár, mentioned by Baber, and described by Mr. Blyth in his Monograph of Wild Sheep, under the name of Ovis Vignei. It is extensively diffused over all the ramifications of Hindu-Kúsh, and westward perhaps to the Persian Elburz. “It is gregarious,” says Wood, “congregating in herds of several hundreds.” In a later chapter Polo speaks of a wild sheep apparently different and greater. (See J. A. S. B., X. 858 seqq.)

NOTE 7.—This pleasant passage is only in Ramusio, but it would be heresy to doubt its genuine character. Marco’s recollection of the delight of convalescence in such a climate seems to lend an unusual enthusiasm and felicity to his description of the scenery. Such a region as he speaks of is probably the cool Plateau of Shewá, of which we are told as extending about 25 miles eastward from near Faizabad, and forming one of the finest pastures in Badakhshan. It contains a large lake called by the frequent name Sar-i-Kol. No European traveller in modern times (unless Mr. Gardner) has been on those glorious table-lands. Burnes says that at Kunduz both natives and foreigners spoke rapturously of the vales of Badakhshan, its rivulets, romantic scenes and glens, its fruits, flowers, and nightingales. Wood is reticent on scenery, naturally, since nearly all his journey was made in winter. When approaching Faizabad on his return from the Upper Oxus, however, he says: “On entering the beautiful lawn at the gorge of its valley I was enchanted at the quiet loveliness of the scene. Up to this time, from the day we left Talikan, we had been moving in snow; but now it had nearly vanished from the valley, and the fine sward was enamelled with crocuses, daffodils, and snowdrops.” (P. Manphul; Burnes, III. 176; Wood, 252.)

NOTE 8.—Yet scarcely any country in the world has suffered so terribly and repeatedly from invasion. “Enduring decay probably commenced with the wars of Chinghiz, for many an instance in Eastern history shows the permanent effect of such devastations…. Century after century saw only progress in decay. Even to our own time the progress of depopulation and deterioration has continued.” In 1759, two of the Khojas of Kashgar, escaping from the dominant Chinese, took refuge in Badakhshan; one died of his wounds, the other was treacherously slain by Sultan Shah, who then ruled the country. The holy man is said in his dying moments to have invoked curses on Badakhshan, and prayed that it might be three times depopulated; a malediction which found ample accomplishment. The misery of the country came to a climax about 1830, when the Uzbek chief of Kunduz, Murad Beg Kataghan, swept away the bulk of the inhabitants, and set them down to die in the marshy plains of Kunduz. (Cathay, p. 542; Faiz Bakhsh, etc.)

NOTE 9.—This “bombasticall dissimulation of their garments,” as the author of Anthropometamorphosis calls such a fashion, is no longer affected by the ladies of Badakhshan. But a friend in the Panjab observes that it still survives there. “There are ladies’ trousers here which might almost justify Marco’s very liberal estimate of the quantity of stuff required to make them;” and among the Afghan ladies, Dr. Bellew says, the silken trousers almost surpass crinoline in amplitude. It is curious to find the same characteristic attaching to female figures on coins of ancient kings of these regions, such as Agathocles and Pantaleon. (The last name is appropriate!)



You must know that ten days’ journey to the south of Badashan there is a Province called PASHAI, the people of which have a peculiar language, and are Idolaters, of a brown complexion. They are great adepts in sorceries and the diabolic arts. The men wear earrings and brooches of gold and silver set with stones and pearls. They are a pestilent people and a crafty; and they live upon flesh and rice. Their country is very hot.[NOTE 1]

Now let us proceed and speak of another country which is seven days’ journey from this one towards the south-east, and the name of which is KESHIMUR.

NOTE 1.—The name of PASHAI has already occurred (see ch. xviii.) linked with DIR, as indicating a tract, apparently of very rugged and difficult character, through which the partizan leader Nigúdar passed in making an incursion from Badakhshan towards Káshmir. The difficulty here lies in the name Pashai, which points to the south-west, whilst Dir and all other indications point to the south-east. But Pashai seems to me the reading to which all texts tend, whilst it is clearly expressed in the G. T. (Pasciai), and it is contrary to all my experience of the interpretation of Marco Polo to attempt to torture the name in the way which has been common with commentators professed and occasional. But dropping this name for a moment, let us see to what the other indications do point.

In the meagre statements of this and the next chapter, interposed as they are among chapters of detail unusually ample for Polo, there is nothing to lead us to suppose that the Traveller ever personally visited the countries of which these two chapters treat. I believe we have here merely an amplification of the information already sketched of the country penetrated by the Nigudarian bands whose escapade is related in chapter xviii., information which was probably derived from a Mongol source. And these countries are in my belief both regions famous in the legends of the Northern Buddhists, viz. UDYÁNA and KÁSHMIR.

Udyána lay to the north of Pesháwar on the Swát River, but from the extent assigned to it by Hiuen Tsang, the name probably covered a large part of the whole hill-region south of the Hindu-Kúsh from Chitrál to the Indus, as indeed it is represented in the Map of Vivien de St. Martin (Pèlerins Bouddhistes, II.). It is regarded by Fahian as the most northerly Province of India, and in his time the food and clothing of the people were similar to those of Gangetic India. It was the native country of Padma Sambhava, one of the chief apostles of Lamaism, i.e. of Tibetan Buddhism, and a great master of enchantments. The doctrines of Sakya, as they prevailed in Udyána in old times, were probably strongly tinged with Sivaitic magic, and the Tibetans still regard that locality as the classic ground of sorcery and witchcraft.

Hiuen Tsang says of the inhabitants: “The men are of a soft and pusillanimous character, naturally inclined to craft and trickery. They are fond of study, but pursue it with no ardour. The science of magical formulae is become a regular professional business with them. They generally wear clothes of white cotton, and rarely use any other stuff. Their spoken language, in spite of some differences, has a strong resemblance to that of India.”

These particulars suit well with the slight description in our text, and the Indian atmosphere that it suggests; and the direction and distance ascribed to Pashai suit well with Chitral, which may be taken as representing Udyána when approached from Badakhshan. For it would be quite practicable for a party to reach the town of Chitrál in ten days from the position assigned to the old capital of Badakhshan. And from Chitrál the road towards Káshmir would lie over the high Lahori pass to DIR, which from its mention in chapter xviii. we must consider an obligatory point. (Fah-hian, p. 26; Koeppen, I. 70; Pèlerins Boud. II. 131-132.)

[“Tao-lin (a Buddhist monk like Hiuen Tsang) afterwards left the western regions and changed his road to go to Northern India; he made a pilgrimage to Kia-che-mi-louo (Káshmir), and then entered the country of U-ch’ang-na (Udyána)….” (Ed. Chavannes, I-tsing, p. 105.)—H. C.]

We must now turn to the name Pashai. The Pashai Tribe are now Mahomedan, but are reckoned among the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, which the Afghans are not. Baber mentions them several times, and counts their language as one of the dozen that were spoken at Kabul in his time. Burnes says it resembles that of the Kafirs. A small vocabulary of it was published by Leech, in the seventh volume of the J. A. S. B., which I have compared with vocabularies of Siah-posh Kafir, published by Raverty in vol. xxxiii. of the same journal, and by Lumsden in his Report of the Mission to Kandahar, in 1837. Both are Aryan, and seemingly of Professor Max Müller’s class Indic, but not very close to one another.[1]

Ibn Batuta, after crossing the Hindu-Kúsh by one of the passes at the head of the Panjshir Valley, reaches the Mountain BASHÁI (Pashai). In the same vicinity the Pashais are mentioned by Sidi ‘Ali, in 1554. And it is still in the neighbourhood of Panjshir that the tribe is most numerous, though they have other settlements in the hill-country about Nijrao, and on the left bank of the Kabul River between Kabul and Jalalabad. Pasha and Pasha-gar is also named as one of the chief divisions of the Kafirs, and it seems a fair conjecture that it represents those of the Pashais who resisted or escaped conversion to Islam. (See Leech’s Reports in Collection pub. at Calcutta in 1839; Baber, 140; Elphinstone, I. 411; J. A. S. B. VII. 329, 731, XXVIII. 317 seqq., XXXIII. 271-272; I. B. III. 86; J. As. IX. 203, and J. R. A. S. N.S. V. 103, 278.)

The route of which Marco had heard must almost certainly have been one of those leading by the high Valley of Zebák, and by the Doráh or the Nuksán Pass, over the watershed of Hindu-Kúsh into Chitrál, and so to Dir, as already noticed. The difficulty remains as to how he came to apply the name Pashai to the country south-east of Badakhshan. I cannot tell. But it is at least possible that the name of the Pashai tribe (of which the branches even now are spread over a considerable extent of country) may have once had a wide application over the southern spurs of the Hindu- Kúsh.[2] Our Author, moreover, is speaking here from hearsay, and hearsay geography without maps is much given to generalising. I apprehend that, along with characteristics specially referable to the Tibetan and Mongol traditions of Udyána, the term Pashai, as Polo uses it, vaguely covers the whole tract from the southern boundary of Badakhshan to the Indus and the Kabul River.

But even by extending its limits to Attok, we shall not get within seven marches of Káshmir. It is 234 miles by road from Attok to Srinagar; more than twice seven marches. And, according to Polo’s usual system, the marches should be counted from Chitrál, or some point thereabouts.

Sir H. Rawlinson, in his Monograph on the Oxus, has indicated the probability that the name Pashai may have been originally connected with Aprasin or Paresín, the Zendavestian name for the Indian Caucasus, and which occurs in the Babylonian version of the Behistun Inscription as the equivalent of Gaddra in the Persian, i.e. Gandhára, there applied to the whole country between Bactria and the Indus. (See J. R. G. S. XLII. 502.) Some such traditional application of the term Pashai might have survived.

[1] The Kafir dialect of which Mr. Trumpp collected some particulars shows in the present tense of the substantive verb these remarkable forms:— Ei sum, Tu sis, siga se; Ima simis, Wi sik, Sige sin.

[2] In the Tabakat-i-Násiri (Elliot, II. 317) we find mention of the Highlands of Pasha-Afroz, but nothing to define their position.



Keshimur also is a Province inhabited by a people who are Idolaters and have a language of their own.[NOTE 1] They have an astonishing acquaintance with the devilries of enchantment; insomuch that they make their idols to speak. They can also by their sorceries bring on changes of weather and produce darkness, and do a number of things so extraordinary that no one without seeing them would believe them.[NOTE 2] Indeed, this country is the very original source from which Idolatry has spread abroad.[NOTE 3]

In this direction you can proceed further till you come to the Sea of

The men are brown and lean, but the women, taking them as brunettes, are very beautiful. The food of the people is flesh, and milk, and rice. The clime is finely tempered, being neither very hot nor very cold. There are numbers of towns and villages in the country, but also forests and desert tracts, and strong passes, so that the people have no fear of anybody, and keep their independence, with a king of their own to rule and do justice.[NOTE 4]

There are in this country Eremites (after the fashion of those parts), who dwell in seclusion and practise great abstinence in eating and drinking. They observe strict chastity, and keep from all sins forbidden in their law, so that they are regarded by their own folk as very holy persons. They live to a very great age.[NOTE 5]

There are also a number of idolatrous abbeys and monasteries. [The people of the province do not kill animals nor spill blood; so if they want to eat meat they get the Saracens who dwell among them to play the butcher.[NOTE 6]] The coral which is carried from our parts of the world has a better sale there than in any other country.[NOTE 7]

[Illustration: Ancient Buddhist Temple at Pandrethan in Káshmir]

Now we will quit this country, and not go any further in the same direction; for if we did so we should enter India; and that I do not wish to do at present. For, on our return journey, I mean to tell you about India: all in regular order. Let us go back therefore to Badashan, for we cannot otherwise proceed on our journey.

NOTE 1.—I apprehend that in this chapter Marco represents Buddhism (which is to be understood by his expression Idolatry, not always, but usually) as in a position of greater life and prosperity than we can believe it to have enjoyed in Káshmir at the end of the 13th century, and I suppose that his knowledge of it was derived in great part from tales of the Mongol and Tibetan Buddhists about its past glories.

I know not if the spelling Kesciemur represents any peculiar Mongol pronunciation of the name. Plano Carpini, probably the first modern European to mention this celebrated region, calls it Casmir (p. 708).

“The Cashmeerians,” says Abu’l Fazl, “have a language of their own, but their books are written in the Shanskrit tongue, although the character is sometimes Cashmeerian. They write chiefly upon Tooz [birch-bark], which is the bark of a tree; it easily divides into leaves, and remains perfect for many years.” (Ayeen Akbery, II. 147.) A sketch of Kashmiri Grammar by Mr. Edgeworth will be found in vol. x. of the J. A. S. B., and a fuller one by Major Leech in vol. xiii. Other contributions on the language are in vol. xxxv. pt. i. p. 233 (Godwin-Austen); in vol. xxxix. pt. i. p. 95 (Dr. Elmslie); and in Proceedings for 1866, p. 62, seqq. (Sir G. Campbell and Bábú Rájendra Lál Mitra). The language, though in large measure of Sanskrit origin, has words and forms that cannot be traced in any other Indian vernacular. (Campbell, pp. 67, 68). The character is a modification of the Panjáb Nagari.

NOTE 2.—The Kashmirian conjurers had made a great impression on Marco, who had seen them at the Court of the Great Kaan, and he recurs in a later chapter to their weather sorceries and other enchantments, when we shall make some remarks. Meanwhile let us cite a passage from Bernier, already quoted by M. Pauthier. When crossing the Pír Panjál (the mountain crossed on entering Káshmir from Lahore) with the camp of Aurangzíb, he met with “an old Hermit who had dwelt upon the summit of the Pass since the days of Jehangir, and whose religion nobody knew, although it was said that he could work miracles, and used at his pleasure to produce extraordinary thunderstorms, as well as hail, snow, rain, and wind. There was something wild in his countenance, and in his long, spreading, and tangled hoary beard. He asked alms fiercely, allowing the travellers to drink from earthen cups that he had set out upon a great stone, but signing to them to go quickly by without stopping. He scolded those who made a noise, ‘for,’ said he to me (after I had entered his cave and smoothed him down with a half rupee which I put in his hand with all humility), ‘noise here raises furious storms. Aurangzíb has done well in taking my advice and prohibiting it. Shah Jehan always did the like. But Jehangir once chose to laugh at what I said, and made his drums and trumpets sound; the consequence was he nearly lost his life.'” (Bernier, Amst. ed. 1699, II. 290.) A successor of this hermit was found on the same spot by P. Desideri in 1713, and another by Vigne in 1837.

NOTE 3.—Though the earliest entrance of Buddhism into Tibet was from India Proper, yet Káshmir twice in the history of Tibetan Buddhism played a most important part. It was in Káshmir that was gathered, under the patronage of the great King Kanishka, soon after our era, the Fourth Buddhistic Council, which marks the point of separation between Northern and Southern Buddhism. Numerous missionaries went forth from Káshmir to spread the doctrine in Tibet and in Central Asia. Many of the Pandits who laboured at the translation of the sacred books into Tibetan were Kashmiris, and it was even in Káshmir that several of the translations were made. But these were not the only circumstances that made Káshmir a holy land to the Northern Buddhists. In the end of the 9th century the religion was extirpated in Tibet by the Julian of the Lamas, the great persecutor Langdarma, and when it was restored, a century later, it was from Káshmir in particular that fresh missionaries were procured to reinstruct the people in the forgotten Law. (See Koeppen, II. 12-13, 78; J. As. sér. VI. tom. vi. 540.)

“The spread of Buddhism to Káshmir is an event of extraordinary importance in the history of that religion. Thenceforward that country became a mistress in the Buddhist Doctrine and the headquarters of a particular school…. The influence of Káshmir was very marked, especially in the spread of Buddhism beyond India. From Káshmir it penetrated to Kandahar and Kabul,… and thence over Bactria. Tibetan Buddhism also had its essential origin from Káshmir;… so great is the importance of this region in the History of Buddhism.” (Vassilyev, Der Buddhismus, I. 44.)

In the account which the Mahawanso gives of the consecration of the great Tope at Ruanwelli, by Dutthagamini, King of Ceylon (B.C. 157), 280,000 priests (!) come from Káshmir, a far greater number than is assigned to any other country except one. (J. A. S. B. VII. 165.)

It is thus very intelligible how Marco learned from the Mongols and the Lamas with whom he came in contact to regard Káshmir as “the very original source from which their Religion had spread abroad.” The feeling with which they looked to Káshmir must have been nearly the same as that with which the Buddhists of Burma look to Ceylon. But this feeling towards Káshmir does not now, I am informed, exist in Tibet. The reverence for the holy places has reverted to Bahar and the neighbouring “cradle-lands” of Buddhism.

It is notable that the historian Firishta, in a passage quoted by Tod, uses Marco’s expression in reference to Káshmir, almost precisely, saying that the Hindoos derived their idolatry from Káshmir, “the foundry of magical superstition.” (Rajasthan, I. 219.)

NOTE 4.—The people of Káshmir retain their beauty, but they are morally one of the most degraded races in Asia. Long oppression, now under the Lords of Jamu as great as ever, has no doubt aggravated this. Yet it would seem that twelve hundred years ago the evil elements were there as well as the beauty. The Chinese traveller says: “Their manners are light and volatile, their characters effeminate and pusillanimous…. They are very handsome, but their natural bent is to fraud and trickery.” (Pèl. Boud. II. 167-168.) Vigne’s account is nearly the same. (II. 142-143.) “They are as mischievous as monkeys, and far more malicious,” says Mr. Shaw (p. 292).

[Bernier says: “The women [of Kachemire] especially are very handsome; and it is from this country that nearly every individual, when first admitted to the court of the Great Mogul, selects wives or concubines, that his children may be whiter than the Indians, and pass for genuine Moguls. Unquestionably, there must be beautiful women among the higher classes, if we may judge by those of the lower orders seen in the streets and in the shops.” (Travels in the Mogul Empire, edited by Archibald Constable, 1891, p. 404.)]

NOTE 5.—In the time of Hiuen Tsang, who spent two years studying in Káshmir in the first half of the 7th century, though there were many Brahmans in the country, Buddhism was in a flourishing state; there were 100 convents with about 5000 monks. In the end of the 11th century a King (Harshadeva, 1090-1102) is mentioned exceptionally as a protector of Buddhism. The supposition has been intimated above that Marco’s picture refers to a traditional state of things, but I must notice that a like picture is presented in the Chinese account of Hulaku’s war. One of the thirty kingdoms subdued by the Mongols was “The kingdom of Fo (Buddha) called Kishimi. It lies to the N.W. of India. There are to be seen the men who are counted the successors of Shakia; their ancient and venerable air recalls the countenance of Bodi-dharma as one sees it in pictures. They abstain from wine, and content themselves with a gill of rice for their daily food, and are occupied only in reciting the prayers and litanies of Fo.” (Rém. N. Mél. Asiat. I. 179.) Abu’l Fazl says that on his third visit with Akbar to Káshmir he discovered some old men of the religion of Buddha, but none of them were literati. The Rishis, of whom he speaks with high commendation as abstaining from meat and from female society, as charitable and unfettered by traditions, were perhaps a modified remnant of the Buddhist Eremites. Colonel Newall, in a paper on the Rishis of Káshmir, traces them to a number of Shiáh Sayads, who fled to Káshmir in the time of Timur. But evidently the genus was of much earlier date, long preceding the introduction of Islam. (Vie et V. de H. T. p. 390; Lassen, III. 709; Ayeen Akb. II. 147, III. 151; J. A. S. B. XXXIX. pt. i. 265.)

We see from the Dabistan that in the 17th century Káshmir continued to be a great resort of Magian mystics and sages of various sects, professing great abstinence and credited with preternatural powers. And indeed Vámbéry tells us that even in our own day the Kashmiri Dervishes are pre-eminent among their Mahomedan brethren for cunning, secret arts, skill in exorcisms, etc. (Dab. I. 113 seqq. II. 147-148; Vámb. Sk. of Cent. Asia, 9.)

NOTE 6.—The first precept of the Buddhist Decalogue, or Ten Obligations of the Religious Body, is not to take life. But animal food is not forbidden, though restricted. Indeed it is one of the circumstances in the Legendary History of Sakya Muni, which looks as if it must be true, that he is related to have aggravated his fatal illness by eating a dish of pork set before him by a hospitable goldsmith. Giorgi says the butchers in Tibet are looked on as infamous; and people selling sheep or the like will make a show of exacting an assurance that these are not to be slaughtered. In Burma, when a British party wanted beef, the owner of the bullocks would decline to make one over, but would point one out that might be shot by the foreigners.

In Tibetan history it is told of the persecutor Langdarma that he compelled members of the highest orders of the clergy to become hunters and butchers. A Chinese collection of epigrams, dating from the 9th century, gives a facetious list of Incongruous Conditions, among which we find a poor Parsi, a sick Physician, a fat Bride, a Teacher who does not know his letters, and a Butcher who reads the Scriptures (of Buddhism)! (Alph. Tib. 445; Koeppen, I. 74; N. and Q., C. and J. III. 33.)

NOTE 7.—Coral is still a very popular adornment in the Himalayan countries. The merchant Tavernier says the people to the north of the Great Mogul’s territories and in the mountains of Assam and Tibet were the greatest purchasers of coral. (Tr. in India, Bk. II. ch. xxiii.)



In leaving Badashan you ride twelve days between east and north-east, ascending a river that runs through land belonging to a brother of the Prince of Badashan, and containing a good many towns and villages and scattered habitations. The people are Mahommetans, and valiant in war. At the end of those twelve days you come to a province of no great size, extending indeed no more than three days’ journey in any direction, and this is called VOKHAN. The people worship Mahommet, and they have a peculiar language. They are gallant soldiers, and they have a chief whom they call NONE, which is as much as to say Count, and they are liegemen to the Prince of Badashan.[NOTE 1]

There are numbers of wild beasts of all sorts in this region. And when you leave this little country, and ride three days north-east, always among mountains, you get to such a height that ’tis said to be the highest place in the world! And when you have got to this height you find [a great lake between two mountains, and out of it] a fine river running through a plain clothed with the finest pasture in the world; insomuch that a lean beast there will fatten to your heart’s content in ten days. There are great numbers of all kinds of wild beasts; among others, wild sheep of great size, whose horns are good six palms in length. From these horns the shepherds make great bowls to eat from, and they use the horns also to enclose folds for their cattle at night. [Messer Marco was told also that the wolves were numerous, and killed many of those wild sheep. Hence quantities of their horns and bones were found, and these were made into great heaps by the way-side, in order to guide travellers when snow was on the ground.]

The plain is called PAMIER, and you ride across it for twelve days together, finding nothing but a desert without habitations or any green thing, so that travellers are obliged to carry with them whatever they have need of. The region is so lofty and cold that you do not even see any birds flying. And I must notice also that because of this great cold, fire does not burn so brightly, nor give out so much heat as usual, nor does it cook food so effectually.[NOTE 2]

Now, if we go on with our journey towards the east-north-east, we travel a good forty days, continually passing over mountains and hills, or through valleys, and crossing many rivers and tracts of wilderness. And in all this way you find neither habitation of man, nor any green thing, but must carry with you whatever you require. The country is called BOLOR. The people dwell high up in the mountains, and are savage Idolaters, living only by the chase, and clothing themselves in the skins of beasts. They are in truth an evil race.[NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.—[“The length of Little Pamir, according to Trotter, is 68 miles…. To find the twelve days’ ride in the plain of Marco Polo, it must be admitted, says Severtsof (Bul. Soc. Géog. XI. 1890, pp. 588-589), that he went down a considerable distance along the south-north course of the Aksu, in the Aktash Valley, and did not turn towards Tásh Kurgán, by the Neza Tash Pass, crossed by Gordon and Trotter. The descent from this pass to Tásh Kurgán finishes with a difficult and narrow defile, which may well be overflowed at the great melting of snow, from the end of May till the middle of June, even to July.

“Therefore he must have left the Aksu Valley to cross the Pass of Tagharma, about 50 or 60 kilometres to the north of the Neza Tash Pass; thence to Kashgar, the distance, in a straight line, is about 200 kilometres, and less than 300 by the shortest route which runs from the Tagharma Pass to little Kara Kul, and from there down to Yangi Hissar, along the Ghidjik. And Marco Polo assigns forty days for this route, while he allows but thirty for the journey of 500 kilometres (at least) from Jerm to the foot of the Tagharma Pass.”

Professor Paquier (Bul. Soc. Géog. 6’e Sér. XII. pp. 121-125) remarks that the Moonshee, sent by Captain Trotter to survey the Oxus between Ishkashm and Kila Wamár, could not find at the spot marked by Yule on his map, the mouth of the Shakh-Dara, but northward 7 or 8 miles from the junction of the Murghab with the Oxus, he saw the opening of an important water-course, the Suchnan River, formed by the Shakh-Dara and the Ghund-Dara. Marco arrived at a place between Northern Wakhán and Shihgnan; from the Central Pamir, Polo would have taken a route identical with that of the Mirza (1868-1869) by the Chichiklik Pass. Professor Paquier adds: “I have no hesitation in believing that Marco Polo was in the neighbourhood of that great commercial road, which by the Vallis Comedarum reached the foot of the Imaüs. He probably did not venture on a journey of fifty marches in an unknown country. At the top of the Shihgnan Valley, he doubtless found a road marked out to Little Bukharia. This was the road followed in ancient times from Bactrian to Serica; and Ptolemy has, so to speak, given us its landmarks after Marinus of Tyre, by theVallis Comedarum (Valley of actual Shihgnan); the Turris Lapidea and the Statio Mercatorum, neighbourhood of Tash Kurgan, capital of the present province of Sar-i-kol.”

I must say that accepting, as I do, for Polo’s Itinerary, the route from Wakhán to Kashgar by the Taghdum-Bash Pamir, and Tásh Kurgán, I do not agree with Professor Paquier’s theory. But though I prefer Sir H. Yule’s route from Badakhshan, by the River Vardoj, the Pass of Ishkashm, the Panja, to Wakhán, I do not accept his views for the Itinerary from Wakhán to Kashgar; see p. 175.—H. C.]

The river along which Marco travels from Badakhshan is no doubt the upper stream of the Oxus, known locally as the Panja, along which Wood also travelled, followed of late by the Mirza and Faiz Bakhsh. It is true that the river is reached from Badaskhshan Proper by ascending another river (the Vardoj) and crossing the Pass of Ishkáshm, but in the brief style of our narrative we must expect such condensation.

WAKHÁN was restored to geography by Macartney, in the able map which he compiled for Elphinstone’s Caubul, and was made known more accurately by Wood’s journey through it. [The district of Wakhán “comprises the valleys containing the two heads of the Panjah branch of the Oxus, and the valley of the Panjah itself, from the junction at Zung down to Ishkashím. The northern branch of the Panjah has its principal source in the Lake Victoria in the Great Pamir, which as well as the Little Pámir, belongs to Wakhán, the Aktash River forming the well recognized boundary between Kashgaria and Wakhán.” (Captain Trotter, Forsyth’s Mission, p. 275.) The southern branch is the Sarhadd Valley.—H. C.] The lowest part is about 8000 feet above the sea, and the highest Kishlak, or village, about 11,500. A few willows and poplars are the only trees that can stand against the bitter blasts that blow down the valley. Wood estimated the total population of the province at only 1000 souls, though it might be capable of supporting 5000.[1] He saw it, however, in the depth of winter. As to the peculiar language, see note I, ch. xxix. It is said to be a very old dialect of Persian. A scanty vocabulary was collected by Hayward. (J. R. G. S. XXI. p. 29.) The people, according to Shaw, have Aryan features, resembling those of the Kashmiris, but harsher.

[Cf. Captain Trotter’s The Oxus below Wakhan, Forsyth’s Mission, p. 276.]

We appear to see in the indications of this paragraph precisely the same system of government that now prevails in the Oxus valleys. The central districts of Faizabad and Jerm are under the immediate administration of the Mír of Badakhshan, whilst fifteen other districts, such as Kishm, Rusták, Zebák, Ishkáshm, Wakhán, are dependencies “held by the relations of the Mír, or by hereditary rulers, on a feudal tenure, conditional on fidelity and military service in time of need, the holders possessing supreme authority in their respective territories, and paying little or no tribute to the paramount power.” (Pandit Manphul.) The first part of the valley of which Marco speaks as belonging to a brother of the Prince, may correspond to Ishkáshm, or perhaps to Vardoj; the second, Wakhán, seems to have had a hereditary ruler; but both were vassals of the Prince of Badakhshan, and therefore are styled Counts, not kings or Seigneurs.

The native title which Marco gives as the equivalent of Count is remarkable. Non or None, as it is variously written in the texts, would in French form represent Nono in Italian. Pauthier refers this title to the “Rao-nana (or nano) Rao” which figures as the style of Kanerkes in the Indo-Scythic coinage. But Wilson (Ariana Antiqua, p. 358) interprets Raonano as most probably a genitive plural of Rao, whilst the whole inscription answers precisely to the Greek one [Greek: BASILEUS BASILEON KANAERKOU] which is found on other coins of the same prince. General Cunningham, a very competent authority, adheres to this view, and writes: “I do not think None or Non can have any connection with the Nana of the coins.”

It is remarkable, however, that NONO (said to signify “younger,” or lesser) is in Tibet the title given to a younger brother, deputy, or subordinate prince. In Cunningham’s Ladak (259) we read: “Nono is the usual term of respect which is used in addressing any young man of the higher ranks, and when prefixed to Kahlon it means the younger or deputy minister.” And again (p. 352): “Nono is the title given to a younger brother. Nono Sungnam was the younger brother of Chang Raphtan, the Kahlon of Bazgo.” I have recently encountered the word used independently, and precisely in Marco’s application of it. An old friend, in speaking of a journey that he had made in our Tibetan provinces, said incidentally that he had accompanied the commissioner to the installation of a new NONO (I think in Spiti). The term here corresponds so precisely with the explanation which Marco gives of None as a Count subject to a superior sovereign, that it is difficult to regard the coincidence as accidental. The Yuechi or Indo-Scyths who long ruled the Oxus countries are said to have been of Tibetan origin, and Al-Biruni repeats a report that this was so. (Elliot. II. 9.)[2] Can this title have been a trace of their rule? Or is it Indian?

NOTE 2.—This chapter is one of the most interesting in the book, and contains one of its most splendid anticipations of modern exploration, whilst conversely Lieutenant John Wood’s narrative presents the most brilliant confirmation in detail of Marco’s narrative.

We have very old testimony to the recognition of the great altitude of the Plateau of PAMIR (the name which Marco gives it and which it still retains), and to the existence of the lake (or lakes) upon its surface. The Chinese pilgrims Hwui Seng and Sung Yun, who passed this way A.D. 518, inform us that these high lands of the Tsung Ling were commonly said to be midway between heaven and earth. The more celebrated Hiuen Tsang, who came this way nearly 120 years later (about 644) on his return to China, “after crossing the mountains for 700 li, arrived at the valley ofPomilo (Pamir). This valley is 1000 li (about 200 miles) from east to west, and 100 li (20 miles) from north to south, and lies between two snowy ranges in the centre of the Tsung Ling mountains. The traveller is annoyed by sudden gusts of wind, and the snow-drifts never cease, spring or summer. As the soil is almost constantly frozen, you see but a few miserable plants, and no crops can live. The whole tract is but a dreary waste, without a trace of human kind. In the middle of the valley is a great lake 300 li (60 miles) from east to west, and 500 li from north to south. This stands in the centre of Jambudwipa (the Buddhist [Greek: oikouménae]) on a plateau of prodigious elevation. An endless variety of creatures peoples its waters. When you hear the murmur and clash of its waves you think you are listening to the noisy hum of a great market in which vast crowds of people are mingling in excitement…. The lake discharges to the west, and a river runs out of it in that direction and joins the Potsu (Oxus)…. The lake likewise discharges to the east, and a great river runs out, which flows eastward to the western frontier of Kiesha (Káshgar), where it joins the River Sita, and runs eastward with it into the sea.” The story of an eastern outflow from the lake is, no doubt, legend, connected with an ancient Hindu belief (see Cathay, p. 347), but Burnes in modern times heard much the same story. And the Mirza, in 1868, took up the same impression regarding the smaller lake called Pamir Kul, in which the southern branch of the Panja originates.

“After quitting the (frozen) surface of the river,” says Wood, “we … ascended a low hill, which apparently bounded the valley to the eastward. On surmounting this, at 3 P.M. of the 19th February, 1838, we stood, to use a native expression, upon the Bám-i-Duniah, or ‘Roof of the World,’ while before us lay stretched a noble but frozen sheet of water, from whose western end issued the infant river of the Oxus. This fine lake (Sirikol) lies in the form of a crescent, about 14 miles long from east to west, by an average breadth of 1 mile. On three sides it is bordered by swelling hills about 500 feet high, while along its southern bank they rise into mountains 3500 feet above the lake, or 19,000 feet above the sea, and covered with perpetual snow, from which never-failing source the lake is supplied…. Its elevation, measured by the temperature of boiling water, is 15,600 feet.”

The absence of birds on Pamir, reported by Marco, probably shows that he passed very late or early in the season. Hiuen Tsang, we see, gives a different account; Wood was there in the winter, but heard that in summer the lake swarmed with water-fowl. [Cf. Captain Trotter, p. 263, in Forsyth’s Mission.]

The Pamir Steppe was crossed by Benedict Goës late in the autumn of 1603, and the narrative speaks of the great cold and desolation, and the difficulty of breathing. We have also an abstract of the journey of Abdul Mejid, a British Agent, who passed Pamir on his way to Kokan in 1861:—”Fourteen weary days were occupied in crossing the steppe; the marches were long, depending on uncertain supplies of grass and water, which sometimes wholly failed them; food for man and beast had to be carried with the party, for not a trace of human habitation is to be met with in those inhospitable wilds…. The steppe is interspersed with tamarisk jungle and the wild willow, and in the summer with tracts of high grass.” (Neumann, Pilgerfahrten Buddh. Priester, p. 50; V. et V. de H. T. 271-272; Wood, 232; Proc. R. G. S. X. 150.)

There is nothing absolutely to decide whether Marco’s route from Wakhán lay by Wood’s Lake “Sirikol,” or Victoria, or by the more southerly source of the Oxus in Pamir Kul. These routes would unite in the valley of Táshkurgán, and his road thence to Kashgar was, I apprehend, nearly the same as the Mirza’s in 1868-1869, by the lofty Chichiklik Pass and Kin Valley. But I cannot account for the forty days of wilderness. The Mirza was but thirty-four days from Faizabad to Kashgar, and Faiz Bakhsh only twenty-five.

[Severtsof (Bul. Soc. Géog. XI. 1890, p. 587), who accepts Trotter’s route, by the Pamir Khurd (Little Pamir), says there are three routes from Wakhán to Little Pamir, going up the Sarhadd: one during the winter, by the frozen river; the two others available during the spring and the summer, up and down the snowy chain along the right bank of the Sarhadd, until the valley widens out into a plain, where a swelling is hardly to be seen, so flat is it; this chain is the dividing ridge between the Sarhadd and the Aksu. From the summit, the traveller, looking towards the west, sees at his feetthe mountains he has crossed; to the east, the Pamir Kul and the Aksu, the river flowing from it. The pasture grounds around the Pamir Kul and the sources of the Sarhadd are magnificent; but lower down, the Aksu valley is arid, dotted only with pasture grounds of little extent, and few and far between. It is to this part of Pamir that Marco Polo’s description applies; more than any other part of this ensemble of high valleys, this line of water parting, of the Sarhadd and the Aksu, has the aspect of a Roof of the World (Bam-i-dunya, Persian name of Pamir).—H. C.].

[We can trace Marco Polo’s route from Wakhán, on comparing it with Captain Younghusband’s Itinerary from Kashgar, which he left on the 22nd July, 1891, for Little Pamir: Little Pamir at Bozai-Gumbaz, joins with the Pamir-i-Wakhán at the Wakhijrui Pass, first explored by Colonel Lockhart’s mission. Hence the route lies by the old fort of Kurgan-i-Ujadbai at the junction of the two branches of the Tagh-dum-bash Pamir (Supreme Head of the Mountains), the Tagh-dum-bash Pamir, Tásh Kurgán, Bulun Kul, the Gez Defile and Kashgar. (Proc. R. G. S. XIV. 1892, pp. 205-234.)—H. C.]

We may observe that Severtsof asserts Pamir to be a generic term, applied to all high plateaux in the Thian Shan.[3]

[“The Pámír plateau may be described as a great, broad, rounded ridge, extending north and south, and crossed by thick mountain chains, between which lie elevated valleys, open and gently sloping towards the east, but narrow and confined, with a rapid fall towards the west. The waters which run in all, with the exception of the eastern flow from the Tághdúngbásh, collect in the Oxus; the Áksú from the Little Pámír lake receiving the eastern drainage, which finds an outlet in the Áktásh Valley, and joining the Múrgháb, which obtains that from the Alichór and Síríz Pámirs. As the eastern Tághdúngbásh stream finds its way into the Yarkand river, the watershed must be held as extending from that Pámír, down the range dividing it from the Little Pámír, and along the Neza Tásh mountains to the Kizil Art Pass, leading to the Alái.” (Colonel Gordon, Forsyth’s Mission, p. 231.)

Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon (Forsyth’s Mission, p. 231) says also: “Regarding the name ‘Pámír,’ the meaning appears to be wilderness—a place depopulated, abandoned, waste, yet capable of habitation. I obtained this information on the Great Pámír from one of our intelligent guides, who said in explanation—’In former days, when this part was inhabited by Kirghiz, as is shown by the ruins of their villages and burial-grounds, the valley was not all called Pámír, as it is now. It was known by its village names, as is the country beyond Sirikol, which being now occupied by Kirghiz is not known by one name, but partly as Chárling, Bas Robát, etc. If deserted it would be Pámír.” In a note Sir T. D. Forsyth adds that the same explanation of the word was given to him at Yangi-Hissar, and that it is in fact a Khokandi-Turki word.—H. C.]

It would seem, from such notices as have been received, that there is not, strictly speaking, one steppe called Pamir, but a variety of Pamirs, which are lofty valleys between ranges of hills, presenting luxuriant summer pasture, and with floors more or less flat, but nowhere more than 5 or 6 miles in width and often much less.

[This is quite exact; Mr. E. Delmar Morgan writes in the Scottish Geog.
January, 1892, p. 17: “Following the terminology of Yule adopted by
geographers, and now well established, we have (1) Pamir Alichur; (2)
Pamir Khurd (or “Little”); (3) Pamir Kalan (or “Great”); (4) Pamir
Khargosi (“of the hare”); (5) Pamir Sares; (6) Pamir Rang-kul.”—H. C.]

[Illustration: Horns of Ovis Poli.]

Wood speaks of the numerous wolves in this region. And the great sheep is that to which Blyth, in honour of our traveller, has given the name of Ovis Poli.[4] A pair of horns, sent by Wood to the Royal Asiatic Society, and of which a representation is given above, affords the following dimensions:—Length of one horn on the curve, 4 feet 8 inches; round the base 14-1/4 inches; distance of tips apart 3 feet 9 inches. This sheep appears to be the same as the Rass, of which Burnes heard that the horns were so big that a man could not lift a pair, and that foxes bred in them; also that the carcass formed a load for two horses. Wood says that these horns supply shoes for the Kirghiz horses, and also a good substitute for stirrup-irons. “We saw numbers of horns strewed about in every direction, the spoils of the Kirghiz hunter. Some of these were of an astonishingly large size, and belonged to an animal of a species between a goat and a sheep, inhabiting the steppes of Pamir. The ends of the horns projecting above the snow often indicated the direction of the road; and wherever they were heaped in large quantities and disposed in a semicircle, there our escort recognised the site of a Kirghiz summer encampment…. We came in sight of a rough-looking building, decked out with the horns of the wild sheep, and all but buried amongst the snow. It was a Kirghiz burying-ground.” (Pp. 223, 229, 231)

[With reference to Wood’s remark that the horns of the Ovis Poli supply shoes for the Kirghiz horses, Mr. Rockhill writes to me that a Paris newspaper of 24th November, 1894, observes: “Horn shoes made of the horn of sheep are successfully used in Lyons. They are especially adapted to horses employed in towns, where the pavements are often slippery. Horses thus shod can be driven, it is said, at the most rapid pace over the worst pavement without slipping.”

(Cf. Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 69; Chasses et Explorations dans la Région des Pamirs, par le Vte. Ed. de Poncins, Paris, 1897, 8vo.—H. C.).]

[Illustration: Ovis Poli, the Great Sheep of Pamir. (After Severtsof.)

“El hi a grant montitude de monton sauvages qe sunt grandisme, car out lee cornes bien six paumes”….]

In 1867 this great sheep was shot by M. Severtsof, on the Plateau of Aksai, in the western Thian Shan. He reports these animals to go in great herds, and to be very difficult to kill. However, he brought back two specimens. The Narin River is stated to be the northern limit of the species.[5] Severtsof also states that the enemies of the Ovis Poli are the wolves, [and Colonel Gordon says that the leopards and wolves prey almost entirely upon them. (On the Ovis Poli, see Captain Deasy, In Tibet, p. 361.)—H. C.]

Colonel Gordon, the head of the exploring party detached by Sir Douglas Forsyth, brought away a head of Ovis Poli, which quite bears out the account by its eponymus of horns “good 6 palms in length,” say 60 inches. This head, as I learn from a letter of Colonel Gordon’s to a friend, has one horn perfect which measures 65-1/2 inches on the curves; the other, broken at the tip measures 64 inches; the straight line between the tips is 55 inches.

[Captain Younghusband [1886] “before leaving the Altai Mountains, picked up several heads of the Ovis Poli, called Argali by the Mongols. They were somewhat different from those which I afterwards saw at Yarkand, which had been brought in from the Pamir. Those I found in the Gobi were considerably thicker at the base, there was a less degree of curve, and a shorter length of horn.” A full description of the Ovis Poli, with a large plate drawing of the horns, may be seen in Colonel Gordon’s Roof of the World. (See p. 81.) (Proc. R. G. S. X. 1888, p. 495.) Some years later, Captain Younghusband speaks repeatedly of the great sport of shooting Ovis Poli. (Proc. R. G. S. XIV. 1892, pp. 205, 234.)—H. C.]

As to the pasture, Timkowski heard that “the pasturage of Pamir is so luxuriant and nutritious, that if horses are left on it for more than forty days they die of repletion.” (I. 421.) And Wood: “The grass of Pamir, they tell you, is so rich that a sorry horse is here brought into good condition in less than twenty days; and its nourishing qualities are evidenced in the productiveness of their ewes, which almost invariably bring forth two lambs at a birth.” (P. 365.)

With regard to the effect upon fire ascribed to the “great cold,” Ramusio’s version inserts the expression “gli fu affermato per miracolo,” “it was asserted to him as a wonderful circumstance.” And Humboldt thinks it so strange that Marco should not have observed this personally that he doubts whether Polo himself passed the Pamir. “How is it that he does not say that he himself had seen how the flames disperse and leap about, as I myself have so often experienced at similar altitudes in the Cordilleras of the Andes, especially when investigating the boiling-point of water?” (Cent. Asia, Germ. Transl. I. 588.) But the words quoted from Ramusio do not exist in the old texts, and they are probably an editorial interpolation indicating disbelief in the statement.

MM. Huc and Gabet made a like observation on the high passes of north-eastern Tibet: “The argols gave out much smoke, but would not burn with any flame”; only they adopted the native idea that this as well as their own sufferings in respiration was caused by some pernicious exhalation.

Major Montgomerie, R.E., of the Indian Survey, who has probably passed more time nearer the heavens than any man living, sends me the following note on this passage: “What Marco Polo says as to fire at great altitudes not cooking so effectually as usual is perfectly correct as far as anythingboiled is concerned, but I doubt if it is as to anything roasted. The want of brightness in a fire at great altitudes is, I think, altogether attributable to the poorness of the fuel, which consists of either small sticks or bits of roots, or of argols of dung, all of which give out a good deal of smoke, more especially the latter if not quite dry; but I have often seen a capital blaze made with the argols when perfectly dry. As to cooking, we found that rice, dál, and potatoes would never soften properly, no matter how long they were boiled. This, of course, was due to the boiling-point being only from 170° to 180°. Our tea, moreover, suffered from the same cause, and was never good when we were over 15,000 feet. This was very marked. Some of my natives made dreadful complaints about the rice and dál that they got from the village-heads in the valleys, and vowed that they only gave them what was very old and hard, as they could not soften it!”

Regions on and near the Upper Oxus]

NOTE 3.—Bolor is a subject which it would take several pages to discuss with fulness, and I must refer for such fuller discussion to a paper in the J. R. G. S. vol. xlii. p. 473.

The name Bolor is very old, occurring in Hiuen Tsang’s Travels (7th century), and in still older Chinese works of like character. General Cunningham has told us that Balti is still termed Balor by the Dards of Gilghit; and Mr. Shaw, that Palor is an old name still sometimes used by the Kirghiz for the upper part of Chitrál. The indications of Hiuen Tsang are in accordance with General Cunningham’s information; and the fact that Chitrál is described under the name of Bolor in Chinese works of the last century entirely justifies that of Mr. Shaw. A Pushtu poem of the 17th century, translated by Major Raverty, assigns the mountains of Bilaur-istán, as the northern boundary of Swát. The collation of these indications shows that the term Bolor must have been applied somewhat extensively to the high regions adjoining the southern margin of Pamir. And a passage in theTáríkh Rashídí, written at Kashgar in the 16th century by a cousin of the great Baber, affords us a definition of the tract to which, in its larger sense, the name was thus applied: “Malaur (i.e. Balaur or Bolor) … is a country with few level spots. It has a circuit of four months’ march. The eastern frontier borders on Kashgar and Yarkand; it has Badakhshan to the north, Kabul to the west, and Kashmír to the south.” The writer was thoroughly acquainted with his subject, and the region which he so defines must have embraced Sirikol and all the wild country south of Yarkand, Balti, Gilghit, Yasin, Chitrál, and perhaps Kafiristán. This enables us to understand Polo’s use of the term.

The name of Bolor in later days has been in a manner a symbol of controversy. It is prominent in the apocryphal travels of George Ludwig von ——, preserved in the Military Archives at St. Petersburg. That work represents a town of Bolor as existing to the north of Badakhshan, with Wakhán still further to the north. This geography we now know to be entirely erroneous, but it is in full accordance with the maps and tables of the Jesuit missionaries and their pupils, who accompanied the Chinese troops to Kashgar in 1758-1759. The paper in the Geographical Society’s Journal, which has been referred to, demonstrates how these erroneous data must have originated. It shows that the Jesuit geography was founded on downright accidental error, and, as a consequence, that the narratives which profess de visu to corroborate that geography must be downright forgeries. When the first edition was printed, I retained the belief in a Bolor where the Jesuits placed it.

[The Chinese traveller, translated by M. Gueluy (Desc. de la Chine occid. p. 53), speaks of Bolor, to the west of Yarkand, inhabited by Mahomedans who live in huts; the country is sandy and rather poor. Severtsof says, (Bul. Soc. Géog. XI. 1890, p. 591) that he believes that the name of Bolorshould be expunged from geographical nomenclature as a source of confusion and error. Humboldt, with his great authority, has too definitely attached this name to an erroneous orographical system. Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon says that he “made repeated enquiries from Kirghiz and Wakhis, and from the Mír [of Wakhán], Fatteh Ali Shah, regarding ‘Bólór,’ as a name for any mountain, country, or place, but all professed perfect ignorance of it.” (Forsyth’s Mission.)—H. C.]

The J. A. S. Bengal for 1853 (vol. xxii.) contains extracts from the diary of a Mr. Gardiner in those central regions of Asia. These read more like the memoranda of a dyspeptic dream than anything else, and the only passage I can find illustrative of our traveller is the following; the region is described as lying twenty days south-west of Kashgar: “The Keiaz tribe live in caves on the highest peaks, subsist by hunting, keep no flocks, said to be anthropophagous, but have handsome women; eat their flesh raw.” (P. 295; Pèlerins Boud. III. 316, 421, etc.; Ladak, 34, 45, 47; Mag. Asiatique, I. 92, 96-97; Not. et Ext. II. 475, XIV. 492; J. A. S. B. XXXI. 279; Mr. R. Shaw in Geog. Proceedings, XVI. 246, 400; Notes regarding Bolor, etc., J. R. G. S. XLII. 473.)

As this sheet goes finally to press we hear of the exploration of Pamir by officers of Mr. Forsyth’s Mission. [I have made use of the information collected by them.—H. C.]

[1] “Yet this barren and inaccessible upland, with its scanty handful of wild people, finds a place in Eastern history and geography from an early period, and has now become the subject of serious correspondence between two great European Governments, and its name, for a few weeks at least, a household word in London. Indeed, this is a striking accident of the course of modern history. We see the Slav and the Englishman—representatives of two great branches of the Aryan race, but divided by such vast intervals of space and time from the original common starting-point of their migration—thus brought back to the lap of Pamir to which so many quivering lines point as the centre of their earliest seats, there by common consent to lay down limits to mutual encroachment.” (Quarterly Review, April, 1873, p. 548.)

[2] Ibn Haukal reckons Wakhán as an Indian country. It is a curious coincidence (it can scarcely be more) that Nono in the Garo tongue of Eastern Bengal signifies “a younger brother.” (J. A. S. B. XXII. 153, XVIII. 208.)

[3] According to Colonel Tod, the Hindu bard Chand speaks of “Pamer, chief of mountains.” (I. p. 24.) But one may like and respect Colonel Tod without feeling able to rely on such quotations of his unconfirmed.

[4] Usually written Polii, which is nonsense.

[5] [“The Tian Shan wild sheep has since been described as the Ovis Karelini, a species somewhat smaller than the true Ovis Poli which frequents the Pamirs.” (Colonel Gordon, Roof of the World, p. 83, note.)—H. C.]



[Illustration: Head of a Native of Kashgar]

Cascar is a region lying between north-east and east, and constituted a kingdom in former days, but now it is subject to the Great Kaan. The people worship Mahommet. There are a good number of towns and villages, but the greatest and finest is Cascar itself. The inhabitants live by trade and handicrafts; they have beautiful gardens and vineyards, and fine estates, and grow a great deal of cotton. From this country many merchants go forth about the world on trading journeys. The natives are a wretched, niggardly set of people; they eat and drink in miserable fashion. There are in the country many Nestorian Christians, who have churches of their own. The people of the country have a peculiar language, and the territory extends for five days’ journey.[NOTE 1]

[Illustration: View of Kashgar (From Shaw’s “Tartary”)]

NOTE 1.—[There is no longer any difficulty in understanding how the travellers, after crossing Pamir, should have arrived at Kashgar if they followed the route from Táshkurgán through the Gez Defile.

The Itinerary of the Mirza from Badakhshan (Fáizabad) is the following: Zebak, Ishkashm, on the Panja, which may be considered the beginning of the Wakhán Valley, Panja Fort, in Wakhán, Raz Khan, Patur, near Lunghar (commencement of Pamir Steppe), Pamir Kul, or Barkút Yassin, 13,300 feet, Aktash, Sirikul Táshkurgán, Shukrab, Chichik Dawan, Akul, Kotul, Chahul Station (road to Yarkand) Kila Karawal, Aghiz Gah, Yangi-Hissar, Opechan, Yanga Shahr, Kashgar, where he arrived on the 3rd February, 1869. (Cf. Report of “The Mirza’s” Exploration from Caubul to Kashgar. By Major T. G. Montgomerie, R.E…. (Jour. R. Geog. Soc. XLI. 1871, pp. 132-192.)

Major Montgomerie (l.c. p. 144) says: “The alterations in the positions of Kashgar and Yarkund in a great measure explains why Marco Polo, in crossing from Badakhshan to Eastern Turkestan, went first to Kashgar and then to Yarkund. With the old positions of Yarkund and Kashgar it appeared that the natural route from Badakhshan would have led first to Yarkund; with the new positions, and guided by the light of the Mirza’s route, from which it is seen that the direct route to Yarkund is not a good one, it is easy to understand how a traveller might prefer going to Kashgar first, and then to Yarkund. It is satisfactory to have elicited this further proof of the general accuracy of the great traveller’s account of his journey through Central Asia.”

The Itinerary of Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon (Sirikol, the Pámírs and Wakhán, ch. vi. of Forsyth’s Mission to Yarkund in 1873) runs thus: “Left Káshgar (21st March), Yangi-Hissar, Kaskasú Pass, descent to Chihil Gumbaz (forty Domes), where the road branches off to Yárkand (110 miles), Torut Pass, Tangi-Tár (defile), ‘to the foot of a great elevated slope leading to the Chichiklik Pass, plain, and lake (14,700 feet), below the Yámbulák and Kok-Moinok Passes, which are used later in the season on the road between Yangi-Hissár and Sirikol, to avoid the Tangi-Tár and Shindi defiles. As the season advances, these passes become free from snow, while the defiles are rendered dangerous and difficult by the rush of the melting snow torrents. From the Chichiklik plain we proceeded down the Shindi ravine, over an extremely bad stony road, to the Sirikol River, up the banks of which we travelled to Táshkurgán, reaching it on the tenth day from Yangi-Hissar. The total distance is 125 miles.’ Then Táshkurgán (ancient name Várshídi): ‘the open part of the Sirikol Valley extends from about 8 miles below Táshkurgán to apparently a very considerable distance towards the Kunjút mountain range;’ left Táshkurgán for Wákhan (2nd April, 1873); leave Sirikol Valley, enter the Shindán defile, reach the Áktásh Valley, follow the Áktásh stream (called Áksú by the Kirghiz) through the Little Pamir to the Gházkul (Little Pamir) Lake or Barkat Yássín, from which it takes its rise, four days from Táshkurgán. Little Pamir ‘is bounded on the south by the continuation of the Neza Tásh range, which separates it from the Tághdúngbásh Pámir,’ west of the lake, Langar, Sarhadd, 30 miles from Langar, and seven days from Sirikol, and Kila Panj, twelve days from Sirikól.”—H. C.]

[I cannot admit with Professor Paquier (l.c. pp. 127-128) that Marco Polo did not visit Kashgar.—Grenard (II. p. 17) makes the remark that it took Marco Polo seventy days from Badakhshan to Kashgar, a distance that, in the Plain of Turkestan, he shall cross in sixteen days.—The Chinese traveller, translated by M. Gueluy (Desc. de la Chine occidentale, p. 45), says that the name Kashgar is made of Kash, fine colour, and gar, brick house.—H. C.]

Kashgar was the capital, from 1865 to 1877, of Ya’kúb Kúshbegi, a soldier of fortune, by descent it is said a Tajik of Shighnan, who, when the Chinese yoke was thrown off, made a throne for himself in Eastern Turkestan, and subjected the whole basin to his authority, taking the title of Atalik Gházi.

It is not easy to see how Kashgar should have been subject to the Great Kaan, except in the sense in which all territories under Mongol rule owed him homage. Yarkand, Polo acknowledges to have belonged to Kaidu, and the boundary between Kaidu’s territory and the Kaan’s lay between Karashahr and Komul [Bk. I. ch. xli.], much further east.

[Bretschneider, Med. Res. (II. p. 47), says: “Marco Polo states with respect to the kingdom of Cascar (I. 189) that it was subject to the Great Khan, and says the same regarding Cotan (I. 196), whilst Yarcan (I. 195), according to Marco Polo, belonged to Kaidu. This does not agree with Rashid’s statements about the boundary between Kaidu’s territory and the Khan’s.”—H. C.]

Kashgar was at this time a Metropolitan See of the Nestorian Church. (Cathay, etc. 275, ccxlv.)

Many strange sayings have been unduly ascribed to our traveller, but I remember none stranger than this by Colonel Tod: “Marco Polo calls Cashgar, where he was in the 6th century, the birthplace of the Swedes”! (Rajasthan, I. 60.) Pétis de la Croix and Tod between them are answerable for this nonsense. (See The Hist. of Genghizcan the Great, p. 116.)

On cotton, see ch. xxxvi.—On Nestorians, see Kanchau.



Samarcan is a great and noble city towards the north-west, inhabited by
both Christians and Saracens, who are subject to the Great Kaan’s nephew,
CAIDOU by name; he is, however, at bitter enmity with the Kaan.[NOTE 1]
I will tell you of a great marvel that happened at this city.

[Illustration: View of Samarcand. (From a sketch by Mr. Ivanoff.)
“Samarcan est une grandisme cité et noble.”]

It is not a great while ago that SIGATAY, own brother to the Great Kaan, who was Lord of this country and of many an one besides, became a Christian.[NOTE 2] The Christians rejoiced greatly at this, and they built a great church in the city, in honour of John the Baptist; and by his name the church was called. And they took a very fine stone which belonged to the Saracens, and placed it as the pedestal of a column in the middle of the church, supporting the roof. It came to pass, however, that Sigatay died. Now the Saracens were full of rancour about that stone that had been theirs, and which had been set up in the church of the Christians; and when they saw that the Prince was dead, they said one to another that now was the time to get back their stone, by fair means or by foul. And that they might well do, for they were ten times as many as the Christians. So they gat together and went to the church and said that the stone they must and would have. The Christians acknowledged that it was theirs indeed, but offered to pay a large sum of money and so be quit. Howbeit, the others replied that they never would give up the stone for anything in the world. And words ran so high that the Prince heard thereof, and ordered the Christians either to arrange to satisfy the Saracens, if it might be, with money, or to give up the stone. And he allowed them three days to do either the one thing or the other.

What shall I tell you? Well, the Saracens would on no account agree to leave the stone where it was, and this out of pure despite to the Christians, for they knew well enough that if the stone were stirred the church would come down by the run. So the Christians were in great trouble and wist not what to do. But they did do the best thing possible; they besought Jesus Christ that he would consider their case, so that the holy church should not come to destruction, nor the name of its Patron Saint, John the Baptist, be tarnished by its ruin. And so when the day fixed by the Prince came round, they went to the church betimes in the morning, and lo, they found the stone removed from under the column; the foot of the column was without support, and yet it bore the load as stoutly as before! Between the foot of the column and the ground there was a space of three palms. So the Saracens had away their stone, and mighty little joy withal. It was a glorious miracle, nay, it is so, for the column still so standeth, and will stand as long as God pleaseth.[NOTE 3]

Now let us quit this and continue our journey.

NOTE 1.—Of Kaidu, Kúblái Kaan’s kinsman and rival, and their long wars, we shall have to speak later. He had at this time a kind of joint occupancy of SAMARKAND and Bokhara with the Khans of Chagatai, his cousins.

[On Samarkand generally see: Samarqand, by W. Radloff, translated into
French by L. Leger, Rec. d’Itin. dans l’Asie Centrale, Ecole des Langues
Orient., Paris, 1878, p. 284 et seq.; A travers le royaume de Tamerlan
(Asie Centrale)
… par Guillaume Capus … Paris, 1892, 8vo.—H. C.]

Marco evidently never was at Samarkand, though doubtless it was visited by his Father and Uncle on their first journey, when we know they were long at Bokhara. Having, therefore, little to say descriptive of a city he had not seen, he tells us a story:—

  “So geographers, in Afric maps,
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o’er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.”

As regards the Christians of Samarkand who figure in the preceding story, we may note that the city had been one of the Metropolitan Sees of the Nestorian Church since the beginning of the 8th century, and had been a bishopric perhaps two centuries earlier. Prince Sempad, High Constable of Armenia, in a letter written from Samarkand in 1246 or 1247, mentions several circumstances illustrative of the state of things indicated in this story: “I tell you that we have found many Christians scattered all over the East, and many fine churches, lofty, ancient, and of good architecture, which have been spoiled by the Turks. Hence, the Christians of this country came to the presence of the reigning Kaan’s grandfather (i.e. Chinghiz); he received them most honourably, and granted them liberty of worship, and issued orders to prevent their having any just cause of complaint by word or deed. And so the Saracens, who used to treat them with contempt, have now the like treatment in double measure.

Shortly after Marco’s time, viz. in 1328, Thomas of Mancasola, a
Dominican, who had come from Samarkand with a Mission to the Pope (John
XXII.) from Ilchigadai, Khan of Chagatai, was appointed Latin Bishop of
that city. (Mosheim, p. 110, etc.; Cathay, p. 192.)

NOTE 2.—CHAGATAI, here called Sigatay, was Uncle, not Brother, to the Great Kaan (Kúblái). Nor was Kaidu either Chagatai’s son or Kúblái’s nephew, as Marco here and elsewhere represents him to be. (See Bk. IV. ch. i.) The term used to describe Chagatai’s relationship is frère charnel, which excludes ambiguity, cousinship, or the like (such as is expressed by the Italian fratello cugíno), and corresponds, I believe, to the brother german of Scotch law documents.

NOTE 3.—One might say, These things be an allegory! We take the fine stone that belongs to the Saracens (or Papists) to build our church on, but the day of reckoning comes at last, and our (Irish Protestant) Christians are afraid that the Church will come about their ears. May it stand, and better than that of Samarkand has done!

There is a story somewhat like this in D’Herbelot, about the Karmathian Heretics carrying off the Black Stone from Mecca, and being obliged years after to bring it back across the breadth of Arabia; on which occasion the stone conducted itself in a miraculous manner.

There is a remarkable Stone at Samarkand, the Kok-Tash or Green Stone, on which Timur’s throne was set. Tradition says that, big as it is, it was brought by him from Brusa;—but tradition may be wrong. (See Vámbéry’s Travels, p. 206.) [Also H. Moser, A travers l’Asie centrale, 114-115. —H. C.]

[The Archimandrite Palladius (Chinese Recorder, VI. p. 108) quotes from the Chi shun Chin-kiang chi (Description of Chin-Kiang), 14th century, the following passage regarding the pillar: “There is a temple (in Samarcand) supported by four enormous wooden pillars, each of them 40 feet high. One of these pillars is in a hanging position, and stands off from the floor more than a foot.”—H. C.]



Yarcan is a province five days’ journey in extent. The people follow the Law of Mahommet, but there are also Nestorian and Jacobite Christians. They are subject to the same Prince that I mentioned, the Great Kaan’s nephew. They have plenty of everything, [particularly of cotton. The inhabitants are also great craftsmen, but a large proportion of them have swoln legs, and great crops at the throat, which arises from some quality in their drinking-water.] As there is nothing else worth telling we may pass on.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—Yarkan or Yarken seems to be the general pronunciation of the name to this day, though we write YARKAND.

[A Chinese traveller, translated by M. Gueluy (Desc. de la Chine occidentales, p. 41), says that the word Yarkand is made of Iar, earth, and Kiang (Kand?), large, vast, but this derivation is doubtful. The more probable one is that Yarkand is made up of Yar, new, and Kand, Kend, or Kent, city.—H. C.]

Mir ‘Izzat Ullah in modern days speaks of the prevalence of goitre at Yarkand. And Mr. Shaw informs me that during his recent visit to Yarkand (1869) he had numerous applications for iodine as a remedy for that disease. The theory which connects it with the close atmosphere of valleys will not hold at Yarkand. (J. R. A. S. VII. 303.)

[Dr. Sven Hedin says that three-fourths of the population of Yarkand are suffering from goitre; he ascribes the prevalence of the disease to the bad quality of the water, which is kept in large basins, used indifferently for bathing, washing, or draining. Only Hindu and “Andijdanlik” merchants, who drink well water, are free from goitre.

Lieutenant Roborovsky, the companion of Pievtsov, in 1889, says: “In the streets one meets many men and women with large goitres, a malady attributed to the bad quality of the water running in the town conduits, and drunk by the inhabitants in its natural state. It appears in men at the age of puberty, and in women when they marry.” (Proc. R. G. S. 2 ser. XII. 1890, p. 36.)

Formerly the Mirza (J. R. G. S. 1871, p. 181) said: “Goitre is very common in the city [of Yarkund], and in the country round, but it is unknown in Kashgar.”

General Pievtsov gives to the small oasis of Yarkand (264 square miles) a population of 150,000, that is, 567 inhabitants per square mile. He, after Prjevalsky’s death, started, with V. L. Roborovsky (botanist) and P. K. Kozlov (zoologist), who were later joined by K. I. Bogdanovich (geologist), on his expedition to Tibet (1889-1890). He followed the route Yarkand, Khotan, Kiria, Nia, and Charchan.—H. C.]



Cotan is a province lying between north-east and east, and is eight days’ journey in length. The people are subject to the Great Kaan,[NOTE 1] and are all worshippers of Mahommet.[NOTE 2] There are numerous towns and villages in the country, but Cotan, the capital, is the most noble of all, and gives its name to the kingdom. Everything is to be had there in plenty, including abundance of cotton, [with flax, hemp, wheat, wine, and the like]. The people have vineyards and gardens and estates. They live by commerce and manufactures, and are no soldiers.[NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.—[The Buddhist Government of Khotan was destroyed by Boghra Khân (about 980-990); it was temporarily restored by the Buddhist Kutchluk Khân, chief of the Naïmans, who came from the banks of the Ili, destroyed the Mahomedan dynasty of Boghra Khân (1209), but was in his turn subjugated by Chinghiz Khan.

The only Christian monument discovered in Khotan is a bronze cross brought back by Grenard (III. pp. 134-135); see also Devéria, Notes d’Epigraphie Mongole, p. 80.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—”Aourent Mahommet“. Though this is Marco’s usual formula to define Mahomedans, we can scarcely suppose that he meant it literally. But in other cases it was very literally interpreted. Thus in Baudouin de Sebourc, the Dame de Pontieu, a passionate lady who renounces her faith before Saladin, says:—

  “‘Et je renoië Dieu, et le pooir qu’il a;
Et Marie, sa Mère, qu’on dist qui le porta;
Mahom voel aourer, aportez-le-moi chà!’
* * * * Li Soudans commanda
Qu’on aportast Mahom; et celle l’aoura.” (I. p. 72.)

The same romance brings in the story of the Stone of Samarkand, adapted from ch. xxxiv., and accounts for its sanctity in Saracen eyes because it had long formed a pedestal for Mahound!

And this notion gave rise to the use of Mawmet for an idol in general; whilst from the Mahommerie or place of Islamite worship the name of mummery came to be applied to idolatrous or unmeaning rituals; both very unjust etymologies. Thus of mosques in Richard Coeur de Lion:

  “Kyrkes they made of Crystene Lawe,
And her Mawmettes lete downe drawe.” (Weber, II. 228.)

So Correa calls a golden idol, which was taken by Da Gama in a ship of Calicut, “an image of Mahomed” (372). Don Quixote too, who ought to have known better, cites with admiration the feat of Rinaldo in carrying off, in spite of forty Moors, a golden image of Mahomed.

NOTE 3.—800 li (160 miles) east of Chokiuka or Yarkand, Hiuen Tsang comes to Kiustanna (Kustána) or KHOTAN. “The country chiefly consists of plains covered with stones and sand. The remainder, however, is favourable to agriculture, and produces everything abundantly. From this country are got woollen carpets, fine felts, well woven taffetas, white and black jade.” Chinese authors of the 10th century speak of the abundant grapes and excellent wine of Khotan.

Chinese annals of the 7th and 8th centuries tell us that the people of
Khotan had chronicles of their own, a glimpse of a lost branch of history.
Their writing, laws, and literature were modelled upon those of India.

Ilchi, the modern capital, was visited by Mr. Johnson, of the Indian Survey, in 1865. The country, after the revolt against the Chinese in 1863, came first under the rule of Habíb-ullah, an aged chief calling himself Khán Bádshah of Khotan; and since the treacherous seizure and murder of Habíb-ullah by Ya’kub Beg of Kashgar in January 1867, it has formed a part of the kingdom of the latter.

Mr. Johnson says: “The chief grains of the country are Indian corn, wheat, barley of two kinds, bájra, jowár (two kinds of holcus), buckwheat and rice, all of which are superior to the Indian grains, and are of a very fine quality…. The country is certainly superior to India, and in every respect equal to Kashmir, over which it has the advantage of being less humid, and consequently better suited to the growth of fruits. Olives (?), pears, apples, peaches, apricots, mulberries, grapes, currants, and melons, all exceedingly large in size and of a delicious flavour, are produced in great variety and abundance…. Cotton of valuable quality, and raw silk, are produced in very large quantities.”

[Khotan is the chief place of Turkestan for cotton manufactures; its khàm is to be found everywhere. This name, which means raw in Persian, is given to a stuff made with cotton thread, which has not undergone any preparation; they manufacture also two other cotton stuffs: alatcha with blue and red stripes, and tchekmen, very thick and coarse, used to make dresses and sacks; if khàm is better at Khotan, alatcha and tchekmen are superior at Kashgar. (Grenard, II. pp. 191-192.)

Grenard (II. pp. 175-177), among the fruits, mentions apricots (ourouk), ripe in June, and so plentiful that to keep them they are dried up to be used like garlic against mountain sickness; melons (koghoun) water-melons (tarbouz, the best are from Hami); vine (tâl)—the best grapes (uzum) come from Boghâz langar, near Keria; the best dried grapes are those from Turfan; peaches (shaptâlou); pomegranates (anár, best from Kerghalyk), etc.; the best apples are those of Nia and Sadju; pears are very bad; cherries and strawberries are unknown. Grenard (II. p. 106) also says that grapes are very good, but that Khotan wine is detestable, and tastes like vinegar.

The Chinese traveller, translated by M. Gueluy (Desc. de la Chine occidentale, p. 45), says that all the inhabitants of Khotan are seeking for precious stones, and that melons and fruits are more plentiful than at Yarkand.—H. C.]

Mr. Johnson reports the whole country to be rich in soil and very much under-peopled. Ilchi, the capital, has a population of about 40,000, and is a great place for manufactures. The chief articles produced are silks, felts, carpets (both silk and woollen), coarse cotton cloths, and paper from the mulberry fibre. The people are strict Mahomedans, and speak a Turki dialect. Both sexes are good-looking, with a slightly Tartar cast of countenance. (V. et V. de H. T. 278; Rémusat, H. de la V. de Khotan, 37, 73-84; Chin. Repos. IX. 128; J. R. G. S. XXXVII. 6 seqq.)

[In 1891, Dutreuil de Rhins and Grenard at the small village of Yotkán, about 8 miles to the west of the present Khotan, came across what they considered the most important and probably the most ancient city of southern Chinese Turkestan. The natives say that Yotkàn is the site of the old Capital. (Cf. Grenard, III. p. 127 et seq. for a description and drawings of coins and objects found at this place.)

The remains of the ancient capital of Khotan were accidentally discovered, some thirty-five years ago, at Yotkàn, a village of the Borazân Tract. A great mass of highly interesting finds of ancient art pottery, engraved stones, and early Khotan coins with Kharosthi-Chinese legends, coming from this site, have recently been thoroughly examined in Dr. Hoernle’s Report on the “British Collection of Central Asian Antiquities.” Stein.—(See Three further Collections of Ancient Manuscripts from Central Asia, by Dr. A. F. R. Hoernle … Calcutta, 1897, 8vo.)

“The sacred sites of Buddhist Khotan which Hiuen Tsang and Fa-hian describe, can be shown to be occupied now, almost without exception, by Mohamedan shrines forming the object of popular pilgrimages.” (M. A. Stein, Archaeological Work about Khotan, Jour. R. As. Soc., April, 1901, p. 296.)

It may be justly said that during the last few years numerous traces of Hindu civilisation have been found in Central Asia, extending from Khotan, through the Takla-Makan, as far as Turfan, and perhaps further up.

Dr. Sven Hedin, in the year 1896, during his second journey through Takla-Makan from Khotan to Shah Yar, visited the ruins between the Khotan Daria and the Kiria Daria, where he found the remains of the city of Takla-Makan now buried in the sands. He discovered figures of Buddha, a piece of papyrus with unknown characters, vestiges of habitations. This Asiatic Pompei, says the traveller, at least ten centuries old, is anterior to the Mahomedan invasion led by Kuteïbe Ibn-Muslim, which happened at the beginning of the 8th century. Its inhabitants were Buddhist, and of Aryan race, probably originating from Hindustan.—Dutreuil de Rhins and Grenard discovered in the Kumâri grottoes, in a small hill on the right bank of the Karakash Daria, a manuscript written on birch bark in _K_harosh_t_hi characters; these grottoes of Kumâri are mentioned in Hiuen Tsang. (II. p. 229.)

Dr. Sven Hedin followed the route Kashgar, Yangi-Hissar, Yarkand to Khotan, in 1895. He made a stay of nine days at Ilchi, the population of which he estimated at 5500 inhabitants (5000 Musulmans, 500 Chinese).

(See also Sven Hedin, Die Geog. wissenschaft. Ergebnisse meiner Reisen in
, 1894-1897. Petermann’s Mitt., Ergänz. XXVIII. (Hft. 131),
Gotha, 1900.—H. C.]



Pein is a province five days in length, lying between east and north-east. The people are worshippers of Mahommet, and subjects of the Great Kaan. There are a good number of towns and villages, but the most noble is PEIN, the capital of the kingdom.[NOTE 1] There are rivers in this country, in which quantities of Jasper and Chalcedony are found.[NOTE 2] The people have plenty of all products, including cotton. They live by manufactures and trade. But they have a custom that I must relate. If the husband of any woman go away upon a journey and remain away for more than 20 days, as soon as that term is past the woman may marry another man, and the husband also may then marry whom he pleases.[NOTE 3]

I should tell you that all the provinces that I have been speaking of, from Cascar forward, and those I am going to mention [as far as the city of Lop] belong to GREAT TURKEY.

NOTE 1.—”In old times,” says the Haft Iklím., “travellers used to go from Khotan to Cathay in 14 (?) days, and found towns and villages all along the road [excepting, it may be presumed, on the terrible Gobi], so that there was no need to travel in caravans. In later days the fear of the Kalmaks caused this line to be abandoned, and the circuitous one occupied 100 days.” This directer route between Khotan and China must have been followed by Fa-hian on his way to India; by Hiuen Tsang on his way back; and by Shah Rukh’s ambassadors on their return from China in 1421. The circuitous route alluded to appears to have gone north from Khotan, crossed the Tarimgol, and fallen into the road along the base of the Thian Shan, eventually crossing the Desert southward from Komul.

Former commentators differed very widely as to the position of Pein, and as to the direction of Polo’s route from Khotan. The information acquired of late years leaves the latter no longer open to doubt. It must have been nearly coincident with that of Hiuen Tsang.

The perusal of Johnson’s Report of his journey to Khotan, and the Itineraries attached to it, enabled me to feel tolerable certainty as to the position of Charchan (see next chapter), and as to the fact that Marco followed a direct route from Khotan to the vicinity of Lake Lop. Pein, then, was identical with PIMA,[1] which was the first city reached by Hiuen Tsang on his return to China after quitting Khotan, and which lay 330 li east of the latter city.[2] Other notices of Pima appear in Rémusat’s history of Khotan; some of these agree exactly as to the distance from the capital, adding that it stood on the banks of a river flowing from the East and entering the sandy Desert; whilst one account seems to place it at 500 li from Khotan. And in the Turkish map of Central Asia, printed in the Jahán Numá, as we learn from Sir H. Rawlinson, the town of Pím is placed a little way north of Khotan. Johnson found Khotan rife with stories of former cities overwhelmed by the shifting sands of the Desert, and these sands appear to have been advancing for ages; for far to the north-east of Pima, even in the 7th century, were to be found the deserted and ruined cities of the ancient kingdoms of Tuholo and Shemathona. “Where anciently were the seats of flourishing cities and prosperous communities,” says a Chinese author speaking of this region, “is nothing now to be seen but a vast desert; all has been buried in the sands, and the wild camel is hunted on those arid plains.”

Pima cannot have been very far from Kiria, visited by Johnson. This is a town of 7000 houses, lying east of Ilchi, and about 69 miles distant from it. The road for the most part lies through a highly cultivated and irrigated country, flanked by the sandy desert at three or four miles to the left. After passing eastward by Kiria it is said to make a great elbow, turning north; and within this elbow lie the sands that have buried cities and fertile country. Here Mr. Shaw supposes Pima lay (perhaps upon the river of Kiria). At Pima itself, in A. D. 644, there was a story of the destruction of a city lying further north, a judgment on the luxury and impiety of the people and their king, who, shocked at the eccentric aspect of a holy man, had caused him to be buried in sand up to the mouth.

(N. et E. XIV. 477; H. de la Ville de Khotan, 63-66; Klap. Tabl. Historiques, p. 182; Proc. R. G. S. XVI. 243.)

[Dutreuil de Rhins and Grenard took the road from Khotan to Charchan; they left Khotan on the 4th May, 1893, passed Kiria, Nia, and instead of going direct to Charchan through the desert, they passed Kara Say at the foot of the Altyn tâgh, a route three days longer than the other, but one which was less warm, and where water, meat, milk, and barley could be found. Having passed Kapa, they crossed the Karamuren, and went up from Achan due north to Charchan, where they stayed three months. Nowhere do they mention Pein, or Pima, for it appears to be Kiria itself, which is the only real town between Khotan and the Lobnor. Grenard says in a note (p. 54, vol. ii.): “Pi-mo (Keria) recalls the Tibetan byé-ma, which is pronounced Péma, or Tchéma, and which means sand. Such is perhaps also the origin of Pialma, a village near Khotan, and of the old name of Charchan, Tché-mo-to-na, of which the two last syllables would represent grong (pronounce tong = town), or kr’om (t’om = bazaar). Now, not only would this etymology be justified because these three places are indeed surrounded with sand remarkably deep, but as they were the first three important places with which the Tibetans met coming into the desert of Gobi, either by the route of Gurgutluk and of Polor, or by Karakoram and Sandju, or by Tsadam, and they had thus as good a pretext to call them ‘towns of sand’ as the Chinese had to give to T’un-hwang the name ofShachau, viz. City of Sand. Kiria is called Ou-mi, under the Han, and the name of Pi-mo is found for the first time in Hiuen Tsang, that is to say, before the Tibetan invasions of the 8th century. It is not possible to admit that the incursion of the Tu-ku-hun in the 5th century could be the cause of this change of name. The hypothesis remains that Pi-mo was really the ancient name forced by the first Tibetan invaders spoken of by legend, that Ou-mi was either another name of the town, or a fancy name invented by the Chinese, like Yu-t’ien for Khotan, Su-lo for Kashgar….” Sir T. D. Forsyth (J. R. G. S., XLVII., 1877, p. 3) writes: “I should say that Peim or Pima must be identical with Kiria.”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—The Jasper and Chalcedony of our author are probably only varieties of the semi-precious mineral called by us popularly Jade, by the Chinese , by the Eastern Turks Kásh, by the Persians Yashm, which last is no doubt the same word with [Greek: íaspis], and therefore withJásper. The Greek Jaspis was in reality, according to Mr. King, a green Chalcedony.

The Jade of Turkestan is largely derived from water-rolled boulders fished up by divers in the rivers of Khotan, but it is also got from mines in the valley of the Karákásh River. “Some of the Jade,” says Timkowski, “is as white as snow, some dark green, like the most beautiful emerald (?), others yellow, vermilion, and jet black. The rarest and most esteemed varieties are the white speckled with red and the green veined with gold.” (I. 395.) The Jade of Khotan appears to be first mentioned by Chinese authors in the time of the Han Dynasty under Wu-ti (B.C. 140-86). In A.D. 541 an image of Buddha sculptured in Jade was sent as an offering from Khotan; and in 632 the process of fishing for the material in the rivers of Khotan, as practised down to modern times, is mentioned. The importation of Jade or from this quarter probably gave the name of Kia-yü Kwan or “Jade Gate” to the fortified Pass looking in this direction on the extreme N. W. of China Proper, between Shachau and Suhchau. Since the detachment from China the Jade industry has ceased, the Musulmans having no taste for that kind of virtù. (H. de la V. de Khotan, 2, 17, 23; also see J. R. G. S. XXXVI. 165, and Cathay, 130, 564; Ritter, II. 213; Shaw’s High Tartary, pp. 98, 473.)

[On the 11th January, 1895, Dr. Sven Hedin visited one of the chief places where Jade is to be found. It is to the north-east of Khotan, in the old bed of the Yurun Kash. The bed of the river is divided into claims like gold-fields; the workmen are Chinese for the greater part, some few are Musulmans.

Grenard (II. pp. 186-187) says that the finest Jade comes from the high Karákásh (black Jade) River and Yurungkásh (white Jade); the Jade River is called Su-tásh. At Khotan, Jade is polished up by sixty or seventy individuals belonging to twenty-five workshops.

“At 18 miles from Su-chau, Kia-yu-kwan, celebrated as one of the gates of China, and as the fortress guarding the extreme north-west entrance into the empire, is passed.” (Colonel M. S. Bell, Proc. R. G. S. XII. 1890, p. 75.)

According to the Chinese characters, the name of Kia-yü Kwan does not mean “Jade Gate,” and as Mr. Rockhill writes to me, it can only mean something like “barrier of the pleasant Valley.”—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Possibly this may refer to the custom of temporary marriages which seems to prevail in most towns of Central Asia which are the halting-places of caravans, and the morals of which are much on a par with those of seaport towns, from analogous causes. Thus at Meshid, Khanikoff speaks of the large population of young and pretty women ready, according to the accommodating rules of Shiah Mahomedanism, to engage in marriages which are perfectly lawful, for a month, a week, or even twenty-four hours. Kashgar is also noted in the East for its chaukans, young women with whom the traveller may readily form an alliance for the period of his stay, be it long or short. (Khan. Mém. p. 98; Russ. in Central Asia, 52; J. A. S. B. XXVI. 262; Burnes, III. 195; Vigne, II. 201.)

[1] Pein may easily have been miscopied for Pem which is indeed the reading of some MSS. Ramusio has Peym.

[2] M. Vivien de St. Martin, in his map of Hiuen Tsang’s travels, places Pima to the west of Khotan. Though one sees bow the mistake originated, there is no real ground for this in either of the versions of the Chinese pilgrim’s journey. (See Vie et Voyages, p. 288, and Mémoires, vol. ii. 242-243.)



Charchan is a Province of Great Turkey, lying between north-east and east. The people worship Mahommet. There are numerous towns and villages, and the chief city of the kingdom bears its name, Charchan. The Province contains rivers which bring down Jasper and Chalcedony, and these are carried for sale into Cathay, where they fetch great prices. The whole of the Province is sandy, and so is the road all the way from Pein, and much of the water that you find is bitter and bad. However, at some places you do find fresh and sweet water. When an army passes through the land, the people escape with their wives, children, and cattle a distance of two or three days’ journey into the sandy waste; and knowing the spots where water is to be had, they are able to live there, and to keep their cattle alive, whilst it is impossible to discover them; for the wind immediately blows the sand over their track.

Quitting Charchan, you ride some five days through the sands, finding none but bad and bitter water, and then you come to a place where the water is sweet. And now I will tell you of a province called Lop, in which there is a city, also called LOP, which you come to at the end of those five days. It is at the entrance of the great Desert, and it is here that travellers repose before entering on the Desert.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—Though the Lake of Lob or Lop appears on all our maps, from Chinese authority, the latter does not seem to have supplied information as to a town so called. We have, however, indications of the existence of such a place, both mediaeval and recent. The History of Mirza Haidar, called the Táríkh-i-Rashídí, already referred to, in describing the Great Basin of Eastern Turkestan, says: “Formerly there were several large cities in this plain; the names of two have survived—Lob and Kank, but of the rest there is no trace or tradition; all is buried under the sand.” [Forsyth (J. R. G. S. XLVII. 1877, p. 5) says that he thinks that this Kank is probably the Katak mentioned by Mirza Haidar.—H. C.] In another place the same history says that a boy heir of the house of Chaghatai, to save him from a usurper, was sent away to Sárígh Uighúr and Lob-Kank, far in the East. Again, in the short notices of the cities of Turkestan which Mr. Wathen collected at Bombay from pilgrims of those regions on their way to Mecca, we find the following: “Lopp.—Lopp is situated at a great distance from Yarkand. The inhabitants are principally Chinese; but a few Uzbeks reside there. Lopp is remarkable for a salt-water lake in its vicinity.” Johnson, speaking of a road from Tibet into Khotan, says: “This route … leads not only to Ilchi and Yarkand, but also viâ Lob to the large and important city of Karashahr.” And among the routes attached to Mr. Johnson’s original Report, we have:—

“Route No. VII. Kiria (see note 1 to last chapter) to CHACHAN and LOB (from native information).”

This first revealed to me the continued existence of Marco’s Charchan; for it was impossible to doubt that in the CHACHAN and LOB of this Itinerary we had his Charchan and Lop; and his route to the verge of the Great Desert was thus made clear.

Mr. Johnson’s information made the journey from Kiria to Charchan to be 9 marches, estimated by him to amount to 154 miles, and adding 69 miles from Ilchi to Kiria (which he actually traversed) we have 13 marches or 223 miles for the distance from Ilchi to Charchan. Mr. Shaw has since obtained a route between Ilchi and Lob on very good authority. This makes the distance to Charchan, or Charchand, as it is called, 22 marches, which Mr. Shaw estimates at 293 miles. Both give 6 marches from Charchand to Lob, which is in fair accordance with Polo’s 5, and Shaw estimates the whole distance from Ilchi to Lob at 373, or by another calculation at 384 miles, say roundly 380 miles. This higher estimate is to be preferred to Mr. Johnson’s for a reason which will appear under next chapter.

Mr. Shaw’s informant, Rozi of Khotan, who had lived twelve years at Charchand, described the latter as a small town with a district extending on both sides of a stream which flows to Lob, and which affords Jade. The people are Musulmans. They grow wheat, Indian corn, pears, and apples, etc., but no cotton or rice. It stands in a great plain, but the mountains are not far off. The nature of the products leads Mr. Shaw to think it must stand a good deal higher than Ilchi (4000), perhaps at about 6000 feet. I may observe that the Chinese hydrography of the Kashgar Basin, translated by Julien in the N. An. des Voyages for 1846 (vol. iii.), seems to imply that mountains from the south approach within some 20 miles of the Tarim River, between the longitude of Shayar and Lake Lop. The people of Lob are Musulman also, but very uncivilised. The Lake is salt. The hydrography calls it about 200 li (say 66 miles) from E. to W. and half that from N. to S., and expresses the old belief that it forms the subterranean source of the Hwang-Ho. Shaw’s Itinerary shows “salt pools” at six of the stations between Kiria and Charchand, so Marco’s memory in this also was exact.

Nia, a town two marches from Kiria according to Johnson, or four according to Shaw, is probably the ancient city of Ni-jang of the ancient Chinese Itineraries, which lay 30 or 40 miles on the China side of Pima, in the middle of a great marsh, and formed the eastern frontier of Khotan bordering on the Desert. (J. R. G. S. XXXVII. pp. 13 and 44; also Sir H. Rawlinson in XLII. p. 503: Erskine’s Baber and Humayun, I. 42; Proc. R. G. S. vol. xvi. pp. 244-249; J. A. S. B. IV. 656; H. de la V. de Khotan, u.s.)

[The Charchan of Marco Polo seems to have been built to the west of the present oasis, a little south of the road to Kiria, where ruined houses have been found. It must have been destroyed before the 16th century, since Mirza Haidar does not mention it. It was not anterior to the 7th century, as it did not exist at the time of Hiuen Tsang. (Cf. Grenard, III. p. 146.)

Grenard says (pp. 183-184) that he examined the remains of what is called the old town of Charchan, traces of the ancient canal, ruins of dwellings deep into the sand, of which the walls built of large and solid-baked bricks, are pretty well preserved. Save these bricks, “I found hardly anything, the inhabitants have pillaged everything long ago. I attempted some excavating, which turned out to be without result, as far as I was concerned; but the superstitious natives declared that they were the cause of a violent storm which took place soon after. There are similar ruins in the environs, at Yantak Koudouk, at Tatrang, one day’s march to the north, and at Ouadjchahari at five days to the north-east, which corresponds to the position assigned to Lop by Marco Polo.” (See Grenard’s Haute Asie on Nia.)

Palladius is quite mistaken (l.c. p. 3.) in saying that the “Charchan” of
Marco Polo is to be found in the present province of Karashar. (Cf. T. W.
Kingsmill’s Notes on Marco Polo’s Route from Khoten to China
, Chinese
, VII. pp. 338-343; Notes on Doctor Sven Hedin’s Discoveries in
the Valley of the Tarim, its Cities and Peoples
, China Review, XXIV.
No. II. pp. 59-64.)—H. C.]



Lop is a large town at the edge of the Desert, which is called the Desert of Lop, and is situated between east and north-east. It belongs to the Great Kaan, and the people worship Mahommet. Now, such persons as propose to cross the Desert take a week’s rest in this town to refresh themselves and their cattle; and then they make ready for the journey, taking with them a month’s supply for man and beast. On quitting this city they enter the Desert.

The length of this Desert is so great that ’tis said it would take a year and more to ride from one end of it to the other. And here, where its breadth is least, it takes a month to cross it. ‘Tis all composed of hills and valleys of sand, and not a thing to eat is to be found on it. But after riding for a day and a night you find fresh water, enough mayhap for some 50 or 100 persons with their beasts, but not for more. And all across the Desert you will find water in like manner, that is to say, in some 28 places altogether you will find good water, but in no great quantity; and in four places also you find brackish water.[NOTE 1]

Beasts there are none; for there is nought for them to eat. But there is a marvellous thing related of this Desert, which is that when travellers are on the move by night, and one of them chances to lag behind or to fall asleep or the like, when he tries to gain his company again he will hear spirits talking, and will suppose them to be his comrades. Sometimes the spirits will call him by name; and thus shall a traveller ofttimes be led astray so that he never finds his party. And in this way many have perished. [Sometimes the stray travellers will hear as it were the tramp and hum of a great cavalcade of people away from the real line of road, and taking this to be their own company they will follow the sound; and when day breaks they find that a cheat has been put on them and that they are in an ill plight.[NOTE 2]] Even in the day-time one hears those spirits talking. And sometimes you shall hear the sound of a variety of musical instruments, and still more commonly the sound of drums. [Hence in making this journey ’tis customary for travellers to keep close together. All the animals too have bells at their necks, so that they cannot easily get astray. And at sleeping-time a signal is put up to show the direction of the next march.]

So thus it is that the Desert is crossed.[NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.—LOP appears to be the Napopo, i.e. Navapa, of Hiuen Tsang, called also the country of Leulan, in the Desert. (Mém. II. p. 247.) Navapa looks like Sanskrit. If so, this carries ancient Indian influence to the verge of the great Gobi. [See supra, p. 190.] It is difficult to reconcile with our maps the statement of a thirty days’ journey across the Desert from Lop to Shachau. Ritter’s extracts, indeed, regarding this Desert, show that the constant occurrence of sandhills and deep drifts (our traveller’s “hills and valleys of sand”) makes the passage extremely difficult for carts and cattle. (III. 375.) But I suspect that there is some material error in the longitude of Lake Lop as represented in our maps, and that it should be placed something like three degrees more to the westward than we find it (e.g.) in Kiepert’s Map of Asia. By that map Khotan is not far short of 600 miles from the western extremity of Lake Lop. By Johnson’s Itinerary (including his own journey to Kiria) it is only 338 miles from Ilchi to Lob. Mr. Shaw, as we have seen, gives us a little more, but it is only even then 380. Polo unfortunately omits his usual estimate for the extent of the “Province of Charchan,” so he affords us no complete datum. But his distance between Charchan and Lob agrees fairly, as we have seen, with that both of Johnson and of Shaw, and the elbow on the road from Kiria to Charchan (supra, p. 192) necessitates our still further abridging the longitude between Khotan and Lop. (See Shaw’s remarks in Proc. R. G. S. XVI. 243.)

[This desert was known in China of old by the name of Lew-sha, i.e.
“Quicksand,” or literally, “Flowing sands.” (Palladius, Jour. N. China B.
R. As. Soc.
N.S. X. 1875, p. 4.)

A most interesting problem is connected with the situation of Lob-nor which led to some controversy between Baron von Richthofen and Prjevalsky. The latter placed the lake one degree more to the south than the Chinese did, and found that its water was sweet. Richthofen agreed with the Chinese Topographers and wrote in a letter to Sir Henry Yule: “I send you two tracings; one of them is a true copy of the Chinese map, the other is made from a sketch which I constructed to-day, and on which I tried to put down the Chinese Topography together with that of Prjevalsky. It appears evident—(1) That Prjevalsky travelled by the ancient road to a point south of the true Lop-noor; (2) that long before he reached this point he found the river courses quite different from what they had been formerly; and (3) that following one of the new rivers which flows due south by a new road, he reached the two sweet-water lakes, one of which answers to the ancient Khas-omo. I use the word ‘new’ merely by way of comparison with the state of things in Kien-long’s time, when the map was made. It appears that the Chinese map shows the Khas Lake too far north to cover the Kara-Koshun. The bifurcation of the roads south of the lake nearly resembles that which is marked by Prjevalsky.” (Preface of E. D. Morgan’s transl. of From Kulja across the Tian Shan to Lob-nor, by Colonel N. Prjevalsky, London, 1879, p. iv.) In this same volume Baron von Richthofen’s remarks are given (pp. 135-159, with a map, p. 144), showing comparison between Chinese and Prjevalsky’s Geography from tracings by Baron von Richthofen and (pp. 160-165) a translation of Prjevalsky’s replies to the Baron’s criticisms.

Now the Swedish traveller, Dr. Sven Hedin, claims to have settled this knotty point. Going from Korla, south-west of Kara-shahr, by a road at the foot of the Kurugh-tagh and between these mountains and the Koncheh Daria, he discovered the ruins of two fortresses, and a series of milestones (potaïs). These tall pyramids of clay and wood, indicating distances in lis show the existence at an ancient period of a road with a large traffic between Korla and an unknown place to the south-east, probably on the shores of the Chinese Lob-nor. Prjevalsky, who passed between the Lower Tarim and the Koncheh Daria, could not see a lake or the remains of a lake to the east of this river. The Koncheh Daria expands into a marshy basin, the Malta Kul, from which it divides into two branches, the Kuntiekkich Tarim (East River) and the Ilek (river) to the E.S.E. Dr. Sven Hedin, after following the course of the Ilek for three days (4th April, 1896) found a large sheet of water in the valley at the very place marked by the Chinese Topographers and Richthofen for the Lob-nor. This mass of water is divided up by the natives into Avullu Kul, Kara Kul, Tayek Kul, and Arka Kul, which are actually almost filled up with reeds. Dr. Sven Hedin afterwards visited the Lob-nor of Prjevalsky, and reached its western extremity, the Kara-buran (black storm) on the 17th April. In 1885, Prjevalsky had found the Lob-nor an immense lake; four years later Prince Henri d’Orleans saw it greatly reduced in size, and Dr. Sven Hedin discovered but pools of water. In the meantime, since 1885, the northern (Chinese) Lob-nor has gradually filled up, so the lake is somewhat vagrant. Dr. Sven Hedin says that from his observations he can assert that Prjevalsky’s lake is of recent formation.

So Marco Polo’s Lob-nor should be the northern or Chinese lake.

Another proof of this given by Dr. Sven Hedin is that the Chinese give the name of Lob to the region between Arghan and Tikkenlik, unknown in the country of the southern lake. The existence of two lakes shows what a quantity of water from the Thian Shan, the Eastern Pamir, and Northern Tibet flows into the basin of the Tarim. The Russian Lieutenant K. P. Kozlov has tried since to prove that the Chinese Lob-nor is the Kara- Koshun (Black district), which is a second lake formed by the Tarim, which discharges into and issues from the lake Kara-buran. Kozlov’s arguments are published in the Isvestia of the Russian Geographical Society, and in a separate pamphlet. The Geog. Jour. (June, 1898, pp. 652-658) contains The Lob-nor Controversy, a full statement of the case, summarising Kozlov’s pamphlet. Among the documents relating to the controversy, Kozlov “quotes passages from the Chinese work Si-yui-shui- dao-tsi, published in 1823, relative to the region, and gives a reduced copy of the Chinese Map published by Dr. Georg Wegener in 1863, upon which map Richthofen and Sven Hedin based their arguments.” Kozlov’s final conclusions (Geog. Jour. l.c. pp. 657-658) are the following: “The Koncheh-daria, since very remote times till the present day, has moved a long way. The spot Gherelgan may be taken as a spot of relative permanence of its bed, while the basis of its delta is a line traced from the farthest northern border of the area of salt clays surrounding the Lob-nor to the Tarim. At a later period the Koncheh-daria mostly influenced the lower Tarim, and each time a change occurred in the latter’s discharge, the Koncheh took a more westward course, to the detriment of its old eastern branch (Ilek). Always following the gradually receding humidity, the vegetable life changed too, while moving sands were taking its place, conquering more and more ground for the desert, and marking their conquest by remains of old shore-lines….

“The facts noticed by Sven Hedin have thus another meaning—the desert to the east of the lakes, which he discovered, was formed, not by Lob-nor, which is situated 1° southwards, but by the Koncheh-daria, in its unremitted deflection to the west. The old bed Ilek, lake-shaped in places, and having a belt of salt lagoons and swamps along its eastern shores, represents remains of waters belonging, not to Lob-nor, but to the shifting river which has abandoned this old bed.

“These facts and explanations refute the second point of the arguments which were brought forward by Sven Hedin in favour of his hypothesis, asserting the existence of some other Lob-nor.

“I accept the third point of his objections, namely, that the grandfathers of the present inhabitants of the Lob-nor lived by a lake whose position was more to the north of Lob-nor; that was mentioned already by Pievtsov, and the lake was Uchu-Kul.

“Why Marco Polo never mentioned the Lob-nor, I leave to more competent persons to decide.

“The only inference which I can make from the preceding account is that the Kara-Koshun-Kul is not only the Lob-nor of my lamented teacher, N. M. Prjevalsky, but also the ancient, the historical, and the true Lob-nor of the Chinese geographers. So it was during the last thousand years, and so will it remain, if ‘the river of time’ in its running has not effaced it from the face of the Earth.”

To Kozlov’s query: “Why Marco Polo never mentioned the Lob-nor, I leave to more competent persons to decide,” I have little hesitation in replying that he did not mention the Lob-nor because he did not see it. From Charchan, he followed, I believe, neither Prjevalsky’s nor Pievtsov’s route, but the old route from Khotan to Si-ngan fu, in the old bed of the Charchan daria, above and almost parallel to the new bed, to the Tarim,—then between Sven Hedin’s and Prjevalsky’s lakes, and across the desert to Shachau to join the ancient Chinese road of the Han Dynasty, partly explored by M. Bonin from Shachau.

There is no doubt as to the discovery of Prjevalsky’s Lob-nor, but this does not appear to be the old Chinese Lob-nor; in fact, there may have been several lakes co-existent; probably there was one to the east of the mass of water described by Dr. Sven Hedin, near the old route from Korla to Shachau; there is no fixity in these waterspreads and the soil of this part of Asia, and in the course of a few years some discrepancies will naturally arise between the observations of different travellers. But as I think that Marco Polo did not see one of the Lob-nor, but travelled between them, there is no necessity to enlarge on this question, fully treated of in this note.

See besides the works mentioned above: Nord—Tibet und Lob-nur Gebiet… herausg. von Dr. G. Wegener. Berlin, 1893. (Sep. abd. Zeit. Ges. f. Erdk.)—Die Geog. wiss. Ergebnisse meiner Reisen in Zentralasien, 1894-1897, von Dr. Sven Hedin, Gotha, J. Perthes, 1900.

Bonvalot and Prince Henri d’Orléans (De Paris au Tonkin, à travers le
Tibet inconnu
, Paris, 1892) followed this Itinerary: Semipalatinsk,
Kulja, Korla, Lob-nor, Charkalyk, Altyn Tagh, almost a straight line to
Tengri Nor, then to Batang, Ta Tsien lu, Ning-yuan, Yun-nan-fu, Mong-tsu,
and Tung-King.

Bonvalot (28th October, 1889) describes Lob in this manner: “The village of Lob is situated at some distance from [the Charchan daria]; its inhabitants come to see us; they are miserable, hungry, étiques; they offer us for sale smoked fish, duck taken with lacet. Some small presents soon make friends of them. They apprize us that news has spread that Pievtsov, the Russian traveller, will soon arrive” (l.c. p. 75). From Charkalyk, Prince Henri d’Orléans and Father Dedeken visited Lob-nor (l.c. p. 77 et seq.), but it was almost dry; the water had receded since Prjevalsky’s visit, thirteen years before. The Prince says the Lob-nor he saw was not Prjevalsky’s, nor was the latter’s lake the mass of water on Chinese maps; an old sorceress gave confirmation of the fact to the travellers. According to a tradition known from one generation to another, there was at this place a large inland sea without reeds, and the elders had seen in their youth large ponds; they say that the earth impregnated with saltpetre absorbs the water. The Prince says, according to tradition, Lob is a local name meaning “wild animals,” and it was given to the country at the time it was crossed by Kalmuk caravans; they added to the name Lob the Mongol word Nor (Great Lake). The travellers (p. 109) note that in fact the name Lob-nor does not apply to a Lake, but to the whole marshy part of the country watered by the Tarim, from the village of Lob to end of the river.

The Pievtsov expedition “visited the Lob-nor (2650 feet) and the Tarim, whose proper name is Yarkend-daria (tarim means ‘a tilled field’ in Kashgarian). The lake is rapidly drying up, and a very old man, 110 years old, whom Pievtsov spoke to (his son, 52 years old, was the only one who could understand the old man), said that he would not have recognized the land if he had been absent all this time. Ninety years ago there was only a narrow strip of rushes in the south-west part of the lake, and the Yarkend-daria entered it 2-1/2 miles to the west of its present mouth, where now stands the village of Abdal. The lake was then much deeper, and several villages, now abandoned, stood on its shores. There was also much more fish, and otters, which used to live there, but have long since disappeared. As to the Yarkend-daria, tradition says that two hundred years ago it used to enter another smaller lake, Uchukul, which was connected by a channel with the Lob-nor. This old bed, named Shirga-chapkan, can still be traced by the trees which grew along it. The greater previous extension of the Lob-nor is also confirmed by the freshwater molluscs (Limnaea uricularia, var. ventricosa, L. stagnalis, L. peregra, and Planorbis sibiricus), which are found at a distance from its present banks. Another lake, 400 miles in circumference, Kara-boyön (black isthmus), lies, as is known, 27 miles to the south-west of Lob- nor. To the east of the lake, a salt desert stretches for a seven days’ march, and further on begin the Kum-tagh sands, where wild camels live.” (Geog. Jour. IX. 1897, p. 552.)

Grenard (III. pp. 194-195) discusses the Lob-nor question and the formation of four new lakes by the Koncheh-daria called by the natives beginning at the north; Kara Kul, Tayek Kul, Sugut Kul, Tokum Kul. He does not accept Baron v. Richthofen’s theory, and believes that the old Lob is the lake seen by Prjevalsky.

He says (p. 149): “Lop must be looked for on the actual road from Charchan to Charkalyk. Ouash Shahri, five days from Charchan, and where small ruins are to be found, corresponds well to the position of Lop according to Marco Polo, a few degrees of the compass near. But the stream which passes at this spot could never be important enough for the wants of a considerable centre of habitation and the ruins of Ouash Shahri are more of a hamlet than of a town. Moreover, Lop was certainly the meeting point of the roads of Kashgar, Urumtsi, Shachau, L’Hasa, and Khotan, and it is to this fact that this town, situated in a very poor country, owed its relative importance. Now, it is impossible that these roads crossed at Ouash Shahri. I believe that Lop was built on the site of Charkalyk itself. The Venetian traveller gives five days’ journey between Charchan and Lop, whilst Charkalyk is really seven days from Charchan; but the objection does not appear sufficient to me: Marco Polo may well have made a mistake of two days.” (III. pp. 149-150.)

The Chinese Governor of Urumtsi found some years ago to the north-west of the Lob-nor, on the banks of the Tarim, and within five days of Charkalyk, a town bearing the same name, though not on the same site as the Lop of Marco Polo.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—”The waste and desert places of the Earth are, so to speak, the characters which sin has visibly impressed on the outward creation; its signs and symbols there…. Out of a true feeling of this, men have ever conceived of the Wilderness as the haunt of evil spirits. In the old Persian religion Ahriman and his evil Spirits inhabit the steppes and wastes of Turan, to the north of the happy Iran, which stands under the dominion of Ormuzd; exactly as with the Egyptians, the evil Typhon is the Lord of the Libyan sand-wastes, and Osiris of the fertile Egypt.” (Archbp. Trench, Studies in the Gospels, p. 7.) Terror, and the seeming absence of a beneficent Providence, are suggestions of the Desert which must have led men to associate it with evil spirits, rather than the figure with which this passage begins; no spontaneous conception surely, however appropriate as a moral image.

“According to the belief of the nations of Central Asia,” says I. J. Schmidt, “the earth and its interior, as well as the encompassing atmosphere, are filled with Spiritual Beings, which exercise an influence, partly beneficent, partly malignant, on the whole of organic and inorganic nature…. Especially are Deserts and other wild or uninhabited tracts, or regions in which the influences of nature are displayed on a gigantic and terrible scale, regarded as the chief abode or rendezvous of evil Spirits…. And hence the steppes of Turan, and in particular the great sandy Desert of Gobi have been looked on as the dwelling-place of malignant beings, from days of hoar antiquity.”

The Chinese historian Ma Twan-lin informs us that there were two roads from China into the Uighúr country (towards Karashahr). The longest but easiest road was by Kamul. The other was much shorter, and apparently corresponded, as far as Lop, to that described in this chapter. “By this you have to cross a plain of sand, extending for more than 100 leagues. You see nothing in any direction but the sky and the sands, without the slightest trace of a road; and travellers find nothing to guide them but the bones of men and beasts and the droppings of camels. During the passage of this wilderness you hear sounds, sometimes of singing, sometimes of wailing; and it has often happened that travellers going aside to see what those sounds might be have strayed from their course and been entirely lost; for they were voices of spirits and goblins. ‘Tis for these reasons that travellers and merchants often prefer the much longer route by Kamul.” (Visdelou, p. 139.)

“In the Desert” (this same desert), says Fa-hian, “there are a great many evil demons; there are also sirocco winds, which kill all who encounter them. There are no birds or beasts to be seen; but so far as the eye can reach, the route is marked out by the bleached bones of men who have perished in the attempt to cross.”

[“The Lew-sha was the subject of various most exaggerated stories. We find more trustworthy accounts of it in the Chow shu; thus it is mentioned in that history, that there sometimes arises in this desert a ‘burning wind,’ pernicious to men and cattle; in such cases the old camels of the caravan, having a presentiment of its approach, flock shrieking to one place, lie down on the ground and hide their heads in the sand. On this signal, the travellers also lie down, close nose and mouth, and remain in this position until the hurricane abates. Unless these precautions are taken, men and beasts inevitably perish.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 4.)

A friend writes to me that he thinks that the accounts of strange noises in the desert would find a remarkable corroboration in the narratives of travellers through the central desert of Australia. They conjecture that they are caused by the sudden falling of cliffs of sand as the temperature changes at night time.—H. C.]

Hiuen Tsang, in his passage of the Desert, both outward and homeward, speaks of visual illusions; such as visions of troops marching and halting with gleaming arms and waving banners, constantly shifting, vanishing, and reappearing, “imagery created by demons.” A voice behind him calls, “Fear not! fear not!” Troubled by these fantasies on one occasion, he prays to Kwan-yin (a Buddhist divinity); still he could not entirely get rid of them; but as soon as he had pronounced a few words from the Prajna (a holy book), they vanished in the twinkling of an eye.

These Goblins are not peculiar to the Gobi, though that appears to be their most favoured haunt. The awe of the vast and solitary Desert raises them in all similar localities. Pliny speaks of the phantoms that appear and vanish in the deserts of Africa; Aethicus, the early Christian cosmographer, speaks, though incredulous, of the stories that were told of the voices of singers and revellers in the desert; Mas’údi tells of the Ghúls, which in the deserts appear to travellers by night and in lonely hours; the traveller, taking them for comrades, follows and is led astray. But the wise revile them and the Ghúls vanish. Thus also Apollonius of Tyana and his companions, in a desert near the Indus by moonlight, see an Empusa or Ghúl taking many forms. They revile it, and it goes off uttering shrill cries. Mas’údi also speaks of the mysterious voices heard by lone wayfarers in the Desert, and he gives a rational explanation of them. Ibn Batuta relates a like legend of the Western Sahara: “If the messenger be solitary, the demons sport with him and fascinate him, so that he strays from his course and perishes.” The Afghan and Persian wildernesses also have their Ghúl-i-Beában or Goblin of the Waste, a gigantic and fearful spectre which devours travellers; and even the Gael of the West Highlands have the Direach Ghlinn Eitidh, the Desert Creature of Glen Eiti, which, one-handed, one-eyed, one-legged, seems exactly to answer to the Arabian Nesnás or Empusa. Nicolò Conti in the Chaldaean desert is aroused at midnight by a great noise, and sees a vast multitude pass by. The merchants tell him that these are demons who are in the habit of traversing the deserts. (Schmidt’s San. Setzen, p. 352; V. et V. de H. T. 23, 28, 289; Pliny, VII. 2; Philostratus, Bk. II. ch. iv.; Prairies d’Or, III. 315, 324; Beale’s Fahian; Campbell’s Popular Tales of the W. Highlands, IV. 326; I. B. IV. 382; Elphinstone, I. 291; Chodzko’s Pop. Poetry of Persia, p. 48; Conti, p. 4; Forsyth, J. R. G. S. XLVII. 1877, p. 4.)

The sound of musical instruments, chiefly of drums, is a phenomenon of another class, and is really produced in certain situations among sandhills when the sand is disturbed. [See supra.] A very striking account of a phenomenon of this kind regarded as supernatural is given by Friar Odoric, whose experience I fancy I have traced to the Reg Ruwán or “Flowing Sand” north of Kabul. Besides this celebrated example, which has been described also by the Emperor Baber, I have noted that equally well-known one of the Jibal Nakús, or “Hill of the Bell,” in the Sinai Desert; Wadi Hamade, in the vicinity of the same Desert; the Jibal-ul-Thabúl, or “Hill of the Drums,” between Medina and Mecca; one on the Island of Eigg, in the Hebrides, discovered by Hugh Miller; one among the Medanos or Sandhills of Arequipa, described to me by Mr. C. Markham; the Bramador or rumbling mountain of Tarapaca; one in hills between the Ulba and the Irtish, in the vicinity of the Altai, called the Almanac Hills, because the sounds are supposed to prognosticate weather-changes; and a remarkable example near Kolberg on the shore of Pomerania. A Chinese narrative of the 10th century mentions the phenomenon as known near Kwachau, on the eastern border of the Lop Desert, under the name of the “Singing Sands”; and Sir F. Goldsmid has recently made us acquainted with a second Reg Ruwán, on a hill near the Perso-Afghan frontier, a little to the north of Sístán. The place is frequented in pilgrimage. (See Cathay, pp. ccxliv. 156, 398; Ritter, II. 204; Aus der Natur, Leipzig, No. 47 [of 1868], p. 752; Rémusat, H. de Khotan, p. 74; Proc. R. G. S. XVII. 91.)

NOTE 3.—[We learn from Joseph Martin, quoted by Grenard, p. 170 (who met this unfortunate French traveller at Khotan, on his way from Peking to Marghelan, where he died), that from Shachau to Abdal, on the Lob-nor, there are twelve days of desert, sandy only during the first two days, stony afterwards. Occasionally a little grass is to be found for the camels; water is to be found everywhere. M. Bonin went from Shachau to the north-west towards the Kara-nor, then to the west, but lack of water compelled him to go back to Shachau. Along this road, every five lis, are to be found towers built with clay, and about 30 feet high, abandoned by the Chinese, who do not seem to have kept a remembrance of them in the country; this route seems to be a continuation of the Kan Suh Imperial highway. A wall now destroyed connected these towers together. “There is no doubt,” writes M. Bonin, “that all these remains are those of the great route, vainly sought after till now, which, under the Han Dynasty, ran to China through Bactria. Pamir, Eastern Turkestan, the Desert of Gobi, and Kan Suh: it is in part the route followed by Marco Polo, when he went from Charchan to Shachau, by the city of Lob.” The route of the Han has been also looked for, more to the south, and it was believed that it was the same as that of the Astyn Tagh, followed by Mr. Littledale in 1893, who travelled one month from Abdal (Lob-nor) to Shachau; M. Bonin, who explored also this route, and was twenty-three days from Shachau to Lob-nor, says it could not be a commercial road. Dr. Sven Hedin saw four or five towers eastward of the junction of the Tarim and the Koncheh-daria; it may possibly have been another part of the road seen by M. Bonin. (SeeLa Géographie, 15th March, 1901, p. 173.)—H. C.]



After you have travelled thirty days through the Desert, as I have described, you come to a city called SACHIU, lying between north-east and east; it belongs to the Great Kaan, and is in a province called TANGUT.[NOTE 1] The people are for the most part Idolaters, but there are also some Nestorian Christians and some Saracens. The Idolaters have a peculiar language, and are no traders, but live by their agriculture.[NOTE 2] They have a great many abbeys and minsters full of idols of sundry fashions, to which they pay great honour and reverence, worshipping them and sacrificing to them with much ado. For example, such as have children will feed up a sheep in honour of the idol, and at the New Year, or on the day of the Idol’s Feast, they will take their children and the sheep along with them into the presence of the idol with great ceremony. Then they will have the sheep slaughtered and cooked, and again present it before the idol with like reverence, and leave it there before him, whilst they are reciting the offices of their worship and their prayers for the idol’s blessing on their children. And, if you will believe them, the idol feeds on the meat that is set before it! After these ceremonies they take up the flesh and carry it home, and call together all their kindred to eat it with them in great festivity [the idol-priests receiving for their portion the head, feet, entrails, and skin, with some part of the meat]. After they have eaten, they collect the bones that are left and store them carefully in a hutch.[NOTE 3]

And you must know that all the Idolaters in the world burn their dead. And when they are going to carry a body to the burning, the kinsfolk build a wooden house on the way to the spot, and drape it with cloths of silk and gold. When the body is going past this building they call a halt and set before it wine and meat and other eatables; and this they do with the assurance that the defunct will be received with the like attentions in the other world. All the minstrelsy in the town goes playing before the body; and when it reaches the burning-place the kinsfolk are prepared with figures cut out of parchment and paper in the shape of men and horses and camels, and also with round pieces of paper like gold coins, and all these they burn along with the corpse. For they say that in the other world the defunct will be provided with slaves and cattle and money, just in proportion to the amount of such pieces of paper that has been burnt along with him.[NOTE 4]

But they never burn their dead until they have [sent for the astrologers, and told them the year, the day, and the hour of the deceased person’s birth, and when the astrologers have ascertained under what constellation, planet, and sign he was born, they declare the day on which, by the rules of their art, he ought to be burnt]. And till that day arrive they keep the body, so that ’tis sometimes a matter of six months, more or less, before it comes to be burnt.[NOTE 5]

Now the way they keep the body in the house is this: They make a coffin first of a good span in thickness, very carefully joined and daintily painted. This they fill up with camphor and spices, to keep off corruption [stopping the joints with pitch and lime], and then they cover it with a fine cloth. Every day as long as the body is kept, they set a table before the dead covered with food; and they will have it that the soul comes and eats and drinks: wherefore they leave the food there as long as would be necessary in order that one should partake. Thus they do daily. And worse still! Sometimes those soothsayers shall tell them that ’tis not good luck to carry out the corpse by the door, so they have to break a hole in the wall, and to draw it out that way when it is taken to the burning.[NOTE 6] And these, I assure you, are the practices of all the Idolaters of those countries.

However, we will quit this subject, and I will tell you of another city which lies towards the north-west at the extremity of the desert.

NOTE 1.—[The Natives of this country were called by the Chinese T’ang-hiang, and by the Mongols T’angu or T’ang-wu, and with the plural suffix Tangut. The kingdom of Tangut, or in Chinese, Si Hia (Western Hia), or Ho si (West of the Yellow River), was declared independent in 982 by Li Chi Ch’ien, who had the dynastic title or Miao Hao of Tai Tsu. “The rulers of Tangut,” says Dr. Bushell, “were scions of the Toba race, who reigned over North China as the Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386- 557), as well as in some of the minor dynasties which succeeded. Claiming descent from the ancient Chinese Hsia Dynasty of the second millennium B.C., they adopted the title of Ta Hsia (‘Great Hsia’), and the dynasty is generally called by the Chinese Hsi Hsia, or Western Hsia.” This is a list of the Tangut sovereigns, with the date of their accession to the throne: Tai Tsu (982), Tai Tsung (1002), Ching Tsung (1032), Yi Tsung (1049), Hui Tsung (1068), Ch’ung Tsung (1087), Jen Tsung (1140), Huan Tsung (1194), Hsiang Tsung (1206), Shên Tsung (1213), Hien Tsung (1223), Mo Chu (1227). In fact, the real founder of the Dynasty was Li Yuan-hao, who conquered in 1031, the cities of Kanchau and Suhchau from the Uighúr Turks, declaring himself independent in 1032, and who adopted in 1036 a special script of which we spoke when mentioning the archway at Kiuyung Kwan. His capital was Hia chau, now Ning hia, on the Yellow River. Chinghiz invaded Tangut three times, in 1206, 1217, and at last in 1225; the final struggle took place the following year, when Kanchau, Liangchau, and Suhchau fell into the hands of the Mongols. After the death of Chinghiz (1227), the last ruler of Tangut, Li H’ien, who surrendered the same year to Okkodaï, son of the conqueror, was killed. The dominions of Tangut in the middle of the 11th century, according to the Si Hia Chi Shih Pên Mo, quoted by Dr. Bushell, “were bounded, according to the map, by the Sung Empire on the south and east, by the Liao (Khitan) on the north-east, the Tartars (Tata) on the north, the Uighúr Turks (Hui-hu) on the west, and the Tibetans on the south-west. The Alashan Mountains stretch along the northern frontier, and the western extends to the Jade Gate (Yü Mên Kwan) on the border of the Desert of Gobi.” Under the Mongol Dynasty, Kan Suh was the official name of one of the twelve provinces of the Empire, and the popular name was Tangut.

(Dr. S. W. Bushell: Inscriptions in the Juchen and Allied Scripts and The Hsi Hsia Dynasty of Tangut. See above, p. 29.)

“The word Tangutan applied by the Chinese and by Colonel Prjevalsky to a Tibetan-speaking people around the Koko-nor has been explained to me in a variety of ways by native Tangutans. A very learned lama from the Gserdkog monastery, south-east of the Koko-nor, told me that Tangutan, Amdoans, and Sifan were interchangeable terms, but I fear his geographical knowledge was a little vague. The following explanation of the term Tangut is taken from the Hsi-tsang-fu. ‘The Tangutans are descendants of the Tang-tu-chüeh. The origin of this name is as follows: In early days, the Tangutans lived in the Central Asian Chin-shan, where they were workers of iron. They made a model of the Chin-shan, which, in shape, resembled an iron helmet. Now, in their language, “iron helmet” is Tang-küeh, hence the name of the country. To the present day, the Tangutans of the Koko-nor wear a hat shaped like a pot, high crowned and narrow, rimmed with red fringe sewn on it, so that it looks like an iron helmet, and this is a proof of [the accuracy of the derivation].’ Although the proof is not very satisfactory, it is as good as we are often offered by authors with greater pretension to learning.

“If I remember rightly, Prjevalsky derives the name from two words meaning ‘black tents.'” (W. W. Rockhill, China Br. R. As. Soc., XX. pp. 278-279.)

“Chinese authorities tell us that the name [Tangut] was originally borne by a people living in the Altaï’, and that the word is Turkish…. The population of Tangut was a mixture of Tibetans, Turks, Uighúrs, Tukuhuns, Chinese, etc.” (Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 150, note.—H. C.)]

Sachiu is SHACHAU, “Sand-district,” an outpost of China Proper, at the eastern verge of the worst part of the Sandy Desert. It is recorded to have been fortified in the 1st century as a barrier against the Hiongnu.

[The name of Shachau dates from A.D. 622, when it was founded by the first emperor of the T’ang Dynasty. Formerly, Shachau was one of the Chinese colonies established by the Han, at the expense of the Hiongnu; it was called T’ung hoang (B.C. 111), a name still given to Shachau; the other colonies were Kiu-kaan (Suhchau, B.C. 121) and Chang-yé (Kanchau, B.C. 111). (See Bretschneider, Med. Res. II. 18.)

“Sha-chow, the present Tun-hwang-hien (a few li east of the ancient town)…. In 1820, or about that time, an attempt was made to re-establish the ancient direct way between Sha-chow and Khotan. With this object in view, an exploring party of ten men was sent from Khotan towards Sha-chow; this party wandered in the desert over a month, and found neither dwellings nor roads, but pastures and water everywhere. M. Polo omits to mention a remarkable place at Sha-chow, a sandy hillock (a short distance south of this town) known under the name of Ming-sha shan—the ‘rumbling sandhill.’ The sand, in rolling down the hill, produces a particular sound, similar to that of distant thunder. In M. Polo’s time (1292), Khubilaï removed the inhabitants of Sha-chow to the interior of China; fearing, probably, the aggression of the seditious princes; and his successor, in 1303, placed there a garrison of ten thousand men.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 5.)

“Sha-chau is one of the best oases of Central Asia. It is situated at the foot of the Nan-shan range, at a height of 3700 feet above the sea, and occupies an area of about 200 square miles, the whole of which is thickly inhabited by Chinese. Sha-chau is interesting as the meeting-place of three expeditions started independently from Russia, India, and China. Just two months before Prjevalsky reached this town, it was visited by Count Szechényi [April, 1879], and eighteen months afterwards Pundit A-k, whose report of it agrees fairly well with that of our traveller, also stayed here. Both Prejevalsky and Szechényi remark on some curious caves in a valley near Sha-chau containing Buddhistic clay idols.[1] These caves were in Marco Polo’s time the resort of numerous worshippers, and are said to date back to the Han Dynasty.” (Prejevalsky’s Journeys … by E. Delmar Morgan, Proc. R. G. S. IX. 1887, pp. 217-218.)—H. C.]

(Ritter, II. 205; Neumann, p. 616; Cathay, 269, 274; Erdmann, 155; Erman, II. 267; Mag. Asiat. II. 213.)

NOTE 2.—By Idolaters, Polo here means Buddhists, as generally. We do not know whether the Buddhism here was a recent introduction from Tibet, or a relic of the old Buddhism of Khotan and other Central Asian kingdoms, but most probably it was the former, and the “peculiar language” ascribed to them may have been, as Neumann supposes, Tibetan. This language in modern Mongolia answers to the Latin of the Mass Book, indeed with a curious exactness, for in both cases the holy tongue is not that of the original propagators of the respective religions, but that of the hierarchy which has assumed their government. In the Lamaitic convents of China and Manchuria also the Tibetan only is used in worship, except at one privileged temple at Peking. (Koeppen, II. 288.) The language intended by Polo may, however, have been a Chinese dialect. (See notes 1 and 4.) The Nestorians must have been tolerably numerous in Tangut, for it formed a metropolitan province of their Church.

NOTE 3.—A practice resembling this is mentioned by Pallas as existing among the Buddhist Kalmaks, a relic of their old Shaman superstitions, which the Lamas profess to decry, but sometimes take part in. “Rich Kalmaks select from their flock a ram for dedication, which gets the name ofTengri Tockho, ‘Heaven’s Ram.’ It must be a white one with a yellow head. He must never be shorn or sold, but when he gets old, and the owner chooses to dedicate a fresh one, then the old one must be sacrificed. This is usually done in autumn, when the sheep are fattest, and the neighbours are called together to eat the sacrifice. A fortunate day is selected, and the ram is slaughtered amid the cries of the sorcerer directed towards the sunrise, and the diligent sprinkling of milk for the benefit of the Spirits of the Air. The flesh is eaten, but the skeleton with a part of the fat is burnt on a turf altar erected on four pillars of an ell and a half high, and the skin, with the head and feet, is then hung up in the way practised by the Buraets.” (Sammlungen, II. 346.)

NOTE 4.—Several of the customs of Tangut mentioned in this chapter are essentially Chinese, and are perhaps introduced here because it was on entering Tangut that the traveller first came in contact with Chinese peculiarities. This is true of the manner of forming coffins, and keeping them with the body in the house, serving food before the coffin whilst it is so kept, the burning of paper and papier-maché figures of slaves, horses, etc., at the tomb. Chinese settlers were very numerous at Shachau and the neighbouring Kwachau, even in the 10th century. (Ritter, II. 213.) [“Keeping a body unburied for a considerable time is called khng koan, ‘to conceal or store away a coffin,’ or thîng koan, ‘to detain a coffin.’ It is, of course, a matter of necessity in such cases to have the cracks and fissures, and especially the seam where the case and the lid join, hermetically caulked. This is done by means of a mixture of chunam and oil. The seams, sometimes even the whole coffin, are pasted over with linen, and finally everything is varnished black, or, in case of a mandarin of rank, red. In process of time, the varnishing is repeated as many times as the family think desirable or necessary. And in order to protect the coffin still better against dust and moisture, it is generally covered with sheets of oiled paper, over which comes a white pall.” (De Groot, I. 106.)—H. C.] Even as regards the South of China many of the circumstances mentioned here are strictly applicable, as may be seen in Doolittle’s Social Life of the Chinese. (See, for example, p. 135; also Astley, IV. 93-95, or Marsden’s quotations from Duhalde.) The custom of burning the dead has been for several centuries disused in China, but we shall see hereafter that Polo represents it as general in his time. On the custom of burning gilt paper in the form of gold coin, as well as of paper clothing, paper houses, furniture, slaves, etc., see also Medhurst, p. 213, and Kidd, 177-178. No one who has read Père Huc will forget his ludicrous account of the Lama’s charitable distribution of paper horses for the good of disabled travellers. The manufacture of mock money is a large business in Chinese cities. In Fuchau there are more than thirty large establishments where it is kept for sale. (Doolittle, 541.) [The Chinese believe that sheets of paper, partly tinned over on one side, are, “according to the prevailing conviction, turned by the process of fire into real silver currency available in the world of darkness, and sent there through the smoke to the soul; they are called gûn-tsoá, ‘silver paper.’ Most families prefer to previously fold every sheet in the shape of a hollow ingot, a ‘silver ingot,’ gûn-khò as they call it. This requires a great amount of labour and time, but increases the value of the treasure immensely.” (De Groot, I. 25.) “Presenting paper money when paying a visit of condolence is a custom firmly established, and accordingly complied with by everybody with great strictness…. The paper is designed for the equipment of the coffin, and, accordingly, always denoted by the term koan-thaô-tsoá, ‘coffin paper.’ But as the receptacle of the dead is, of course, not spacious enough to hold the whole mass offered by so many friends, it is regularly burned by lots by the side of the corpse, the ashes being carefully collected to be afterwards wrapped in paper and placed in the coffin, or at the side of the coffin, in the tomb.” (De Groot, I. 31-32.)—H. C.] There can be little doubt that these latter customs are symbols of the ancient sacrifices of human beings and valuable property on such occasions; so Manetho states that the Egyptians in days of yore used human sacrifices, but a certain King Amosis abolished them and substituted images of wax. Even when the present Manchu Dynasty first occupied the throne of China, they still retained the practice of human sacrifice. At the death of Kanghi’s mother, however, in 1718, when four young girls offered themselves for sacrifice on the tomb of their mistress, the emperor would not allow it, and prohibited for the future the sacrifice of life or the destruction of valuables on such occasions. (Deguignes, Voy. I. 304.)

NOTE 5.—Even among the Tibetans and Mongols burning is only one of the modes of disposing of the dead. “They sometimes bury their dead: often they leave them exposed in their coffins, or cover them with stones, paying regard to the sign under which the deceased was born, his age, the day and hour of his death, which determine the mode in which he is to be interred (or otherwise disposed of). For this purpose they consult some books which are explained to them by the Lamas.” (Timk. II. 312.) The extraordinary and complex absurdities of the books in question are given in detail by Pallas, and curiously illustrate the paragraph in the text. (See Sammlungen, II. 254 seqq.) [“The first seven days, including that on which the demise has taken place, are generally deemed to be lucky for the burial, especially the odd ones. But when they have elapsed, it becomes requisite to apply to a day-professor…. The popular almanac which chiefly wields sway in Amoy and the surrounding country, regularly stigmatises a certain number of days as tîng-sng jít: ‘days of reduplication of death,’ because encoffining or burying a dead person on such a day will entail another loss in the family shortly afterwards.” (De Groot, I. 103, 99-100.)—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—The Chinese have also, according to Duhalde, a custom of making a new opening in the wall of a house by which to carry out the dead; and in their prisons a special hole in the wall is provided for this office. This same custom exists among the Esquimaux, as well as, according to Sonnerat, in Southern India, and it used to exist in certain parts both of Holland and of Central Italy. In the “clean village of Broek,” near Amsterdam, those special doors may still be seen. And in certain towns of Umbria, such as Perugia, Assisi, and Gubbio, this opening was common, elevated some feet above the ground, and known as the “Door of the Dead.”

I find in a list, printed by Liebrecht, of popular French superstitions, amounting to 479 in number, condemned by Maupas du Tour, Bishop of Evreux in 1664, the following: “When a woman lies in of a dead child, it must not be taken out by the door of the chamber but by the window, for if it were taken out by the door the woman would never lie in of any but dead children.” The Samoyedes have the superstition mentioned in the text, and act exactly as Polo describes.

[“The body [of the Queen of Bali, 17th century] was drawn out of a large aperture made in the wall to the right hand side of the door, in the absurd opinion of cheating the devil, whom these islanders believe to lie in wait in the ordinary passage.” (John Crawfurd, Hist. of the Indian Archipelago, II. p. 245.)—H. C.]

And the Rev. Mr. Jaeschke writes to me from Lahaul, in British Tibet: “Our Lama (from Central Tibet) tells us that the owner of a house and the members of his family when they die are carried through the house-door; but if another person dies in the house his body is removed by some other aperture, such as a window, or the smokehole in the roof, or a hole in the wall dug expressly for the purpose. Or a wooden frame is made, fitting into the doorway, and the body is then carried through; it being considered that by this contrivance the evil consequences are escaped that might ensue, were it carried through the ordinary, and, so to say, undisguised house-door! Here, in Lahaul and the neighbouring countries, we have not heard of such a custom.”

(Duhalde, quoted by Marsden; Semedo, p. 175; Mr. Sala in N. and Q., 2nd S. XI. 322; Lubbock, p. 500; Sonnerat I. 86; Liebrecht’s Gervasius of Tilbury, Hanover, 1856, p. 224; Mag. Asiat. II. 93.)

[1] M. Bonin visited in 1899 these caves which he calls “Grottoes of Thousand Buddhas” (Tsien Fo tung). (La Géographie, 15th March, 1901, p. 171.) He found a stèle dated 1348, bearing a Buddhist prayer in six different scripts like the inscription at Kiu Yung Kwan. (Rev. Hist. des Religions, 1901, p. 393.)—H. C.



Camul is a province which in former days was a kingdom. It contains numerous towns and villages, but the chief city bears the name of CAMUL. The province lies between the two deserts; for on the one side is the Great Desert of Lop, and on the other side is a small desert of three days’ journey in extent.[NOTE 1] The people are all Idolaters, and have a peculiar language. They live by the fruits of the earth, which they have in plenty, and dispose of to travellers. They are a people who take things very easily, for they mind nothing but playing and singing, and dancing and enjoying themselves.[NOTE 2]

And it is the truth that if a foreigner comes to the house of one of these people to lodge, the host is delighted, and desires his wife to put herself entirely at the guest’s disposal, whilst he himself gets out of the way, and comes back no more until the stranger shall have taken his departure. The guest may stay and enjoy the wife’s society as long as he lists, whilst the husband has no shame in the matter, but indeed considers it an honour. And all the men of this province are made wittols of by their wives in this way.[NOTE 3] The women themselves are fair and wanton.

Now it came to pass during the reign of MANGU KAAN, that as lord of this province he came to hear of this custom, and he sent forth an order commanding them under grievous penalties to do so no more [but to provide public hostelries for travellers]. And when they heard this order they were much vexed thereat. [For about three years’ space they carried it out. But then they found that their lands were no longer fruitful, and that many mishaps befell them.] So they collected together and prepared a grand present which they sent to their Lord, praying him graciously to let them retain the custom which they had inherited from their ancestors; for it was by reason of this usage that their gods bestowed upon them all the good things that they possessed, and without it they saw not how they could continue to exist.[NOTE 4] When the Prince had heard their petition his reply was “Since ye must needs keep your shame, keep it then,” and so he left them at liberty to maintain their naughty custom. And they always have kept it up, and do so still.

Now let us quit Camul, and I will tell you of another province which lies between north-west and north, and belongs to the Great Kaan.

NOTE 1.—Kamul (or Komul) does not fall into the great line of travel towards Cathay which Marco is following. His notice of it, and of the next province, forms a digression like that which he has already made to Samarkand. It appears very doubtful if Marco himself had visited it; his father and uncle may have done so on their first journey, as one of the chief routes to Northern China from Western Asia lies through this city, and has done so for many centuries. This was the route described by Pegolotti as that of the Italian traders in the century following Polo; it was that followed by Marignolli, by the envoys of Shah Rukh at a later date, and at a much later by Benedict Goës. The people were in Polo’s time apparently Buddhist, as the Uighúrs inhabiting this region had been from an old date: in Shah Rukh’s time (1420) we find a mosque and a great Buddhist Temple cheek by jowl; whilst Ramusio’s friend Hajji Mahomed (circa 1550) speaks of Kamul as the first Mahomedan city met with in travelling from China.

Kamul stands on an oasis carefully cultivated by aid of reservoirs for irrigation, and is noted in China for its rice and for some of its fruits, especially melons and grapes. It is still a place of some consequence, standing near the bifurcation of two great roads from China, one passing north and the other south of the Thian Shan, and it was the site of the Chinese Commissariat depôts for the garrisons to the westward. It was lost to the Chinese in 1867.

Kamul appears to have been the see of a Nestorian bishop. A Bishop of Kamul is mentioned as present at the inauguration of the Catholicos Denha in 1266. (Russians in Cent. Asia, 129; Ritter, II. 357 seqq.; Cathay, passim; Assemani, II. 455-456.)

[Kamul is the Turkish name of the province called by the Mongols Khamil, by the Chinese Hami; the latter name is found for the first time in the Yuen Shi, but it is first mentioned in Chinese history in the 1st century of our Era under the name of I-wu-lu or I-wu (Bretschneider, Med. Res. II. p. 20); after the death of Chinghiz, it belonged to his son Chagataï. From the Great Wall, at the Pass of Kia Yü, to Hami there is a distance of 1470 li. (C. Imbault-Huart. Le Pays de Hami ou Khamil … d’après les auteurs chinois, Bul. de Géog. hist. et desc., Paris, 1892, pp. 121-195.) The Chinese general Chang Yao was in 1877 at Hami, which had submitted in 1867 to the Athalik Ghazi, and made it the basis of his operations against the small towns of Chightam and Pidjam, and Yakúb Khan himself stationed at Turfan. The Imperial Chinese Agent in this region bears the title of K’u lun Pan She Ta Ch’en and resides at K’urun (Urga); of lesser rank are the agents (Pan She Ta Ch’en) of Kashgar, Kharashar, Kuché, Aksu, Khotan, and Hami. (See a description of Hami by Colonel M. S. Bell, Proc. R. G. S. XII. 1890, p. 213.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Expressed almost in the same words is the character attributed by a Chinese writer to the people of Kuché in the same region. (Chin. Repos. IX. 126.) In fact, the character seems to be generally applicable to the people of East Turkestan, but sorely kept down by the rigid Islam that is now enforced. (See Shaw, passim, and especially the Mahrambáshi’s lamentations over the jolly days that were no more, pp. 319, 376.)

NOTE 3.—Pauthier’s text has “sont si honni de leur moliers comme vous avez ouy.” Here the Crusca has “sono bozzi delle loro moglie,” and the Lat. Geog. “sunt bezzi de suis uxoribus.” The Crusca Vocab. has inserted bozzo with the meaning we have given, on the strength of this passage. It occurs also in Dante (Paradiso, XIX. 137), in the general sense of disgraced.

The shameful custom here spoken of is ascribed by Polo also to a province of Eastern Tibet, and by popular report in modern times to the Hazaras of the Hindu-Kush, a people of Mongolian blood, as well as to certain nomad tribes of Persia, to say nothing of the like accusation against our own ancestors which has been drawn from Laonicus Chalcondylas. The old Arab traveller Ibn Muhalhal (10th century) also relates the same of the Hazlakh (probably Kharlikh) Turks: “Ducis alicujus uxor vel filia vel soror, quum mercatorum agmen in terram venit, eos adit, eorumque lustrat faciem. Quorum siquis earum afficit admiratione hunc domum suam ducit, eumque apud se hospitio excipit, eique benigne facit. Atque marito suo et filio fratrique rerum necessariarum curam demandat; neque dum hospes apud eam habitat, nisi necessarium est, maritus eam adit.” A like custom prevails among the Chukchis and Koryaks in the vicinity of Kamtchatka. (Elphinstone’s Caubul; Wood, p. 201; Burnes, who discredits, II. 153, III. 195; Laon. Chalcond. 1650, pp. 48-49; Kurd de Schloezer, p. 13; Erman, II. 530.)

[“It is remarkable that the Chinese author, Hung Hao, who lived a century before M. Polo, makes mention in his memoirs nearly in the same words of this custom of the Uighúrs, with whom he became acquainted during his captivity in the kingdom of the Kin. According to the chronicle of the Tangut kingdom of Si-hia, Hami was the nursery of Buddhism in Si-hia, and provided this kingdom with Buddhist books and monks.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 6.)—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—So the Jewish rabble to Jeremiah: “Since we left off to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings to her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” (Jerem. xliv. 18.)



Chingintalas is also a province at the verge of the Desert, and lying between north-west and north. It has an extent of sixteen days’ journey, and belongs to the Great Kaan, and contains numerous towns and villages. There are three different races of people in it—Idolaters, Saracens, and some Nestorian Christians.[NOTE 1] At the northern extremity of this province there is a mountain in which are excellent veins of steel and ondanique.[NOTE 2] And you must know that in the same mountain there is a vein of the substance from which Salamander is made.[NOTE 3] For the real truth is that the Salamander is no beast, as they allege in our part of the world, but is a substance found in the earth; and I will tell you about it.

Everybody must be aware that it can be no animal’s nature to live in fire, seeing that every animal is composed of all the four elements.[NOTE 4] Now I, Marco Polo, had a Turkish acquaintance of the name of Zurficar, and he was a very clever fellow. And this Turk related to Messer Marco Polo how he had lived three years in that region on behalf of the Great Kaan, in order to procure those Salamanders for him.[NOTE 5] He said that the way they got them was by digging in that mountain till they found a certain vein. The substance of this vein was then taken and crushed, and when so treated it divides as it were into fibres of wool, which they set forth to dry. When dry, these fibres were pounded in a great copper mortar, and then washed, so as to remove all the earth and to leave only the fibres like fibres of wool. These were then spun, and made into napkins. When first made these napkins are not very white, but by putting them into the fire for a while they come out as white as snow. And so again whenever they become dirty they are bleached by being put in the fire.

Now this, and nought else, is the truth about the Salamander, and the people of the country all say the same. Any other account of the matter is fabulous nonsense. And I may add that they have at Rome a napkin of this stuff, which the Grand Kaan sent to the Pope to make a wrapper for the Holy Sudarium of Jesus Christ.[NOTE 6]

We will now quit this subject, and I will proceed with my account of the countries lying in the direction between north-east and east.

NOTE 1.—The identification of this province is a difficulty, because the geographical definition is vague, and the name assigned to it has not been traced in other authors. It is said to lie between north-west and north, whilst Kamul was said to lie towards the north-west. The account of both provinces forms a digression, as is clear from the last words of the present chapter, where the traveller returns to take up his regular route “in the direction between north-east and east.” The point from which he digresses, and to which he reverts, is Shachau, and ’tis presumably from Shachau that he assigns bearings to the two provinces forming the subject of the digression. Hence, as Kamul lies vers maistre, i.e. north-west, and Chingintalas entre maistre et tramontaine, i.e. nor’-nor’-west, Chingintalas can scarcely lie due west of Kamul, as M. Pauthier would place it, in identifying it with an obscure place called Saiyintala, in the territory of Urumtsi. Moreover, the province is said to belong to the Great Kaan. Now, Urumtsi or Bishbalik seems to have belonged, not to the Great Kaan, but to the empire of Chagatai, or possibly at this time to Kaidu. Rashiduddin, speaking of the frontier between the Kaan and Kaidu, says:—”From point to point are posted bodies of troops under the orders of princes of the blood or other generals, and they often come to blows with the troops of Kaidu. Five of these are cantoned on the verge of the Desert; a sixth in Tangut, near Chagan-Nor (White Lake); a seventh in the vicinity of Karakhoja, a city of the Uighúrs, which lies between the two States, and maintains neutrality.”

Karakhoja, this neutral town, is near Turfan, to the south-east of Urumtsi, which thus would lie without the Kaan’s boundary; Kamul and the country north-east of it would lie within it. This country, to the north and north-east of Kamul, has remained till quite recently unexplored by any modern traveller, unless we put faith in Mr. Atkinson’s somewhat hazy narrative. But it is here that I would seek for Chingintalas.

Several possible explanations of this name have suggested themselves or been suggested to me. I will mention two.

1. Klaproth states that the Mongols applied to Tibet the name of Baron-tala, signifying the “Right Side,” i.e. the south-west or south quarter, whilst Mongolia was called Dzöhn (or Dzegun) Tala, i.e. the “Left,” or north-east side. It is possible that Chigin-talas might represent Dzegun Tala in some like application. The etymology of Dzungaria, a name which in modern times covers the territory of which we are speaking, is similar.

2. Professor Vámbéry thinks that it is probably Chingin Tala, “The Vast Plain.” But nothing can be absolutely satisfactory in such a case except historical evidence of the application of the name.

I have left the identity of this name undecided, though pointing to the general position of the region so-called by Marco, as indicated by the vicinity of the Tangnu-Ola Mountains (p. 215). A passage in the Journey of the Taouist Doctor, Changchun, as translated by Dr. Bretschneider (Chinese Recorder and Miss. Journ., Shanghai, Sept.-Oct., 1874, p. 258), suggests to me the strong probability that it may be the Kem-kém-jút of Rashiduddin, called by the Chinese teacher Kien-kien-chau.

Rashiduddin couples the territory of the Kirghiz with Kemkemjút, but defines the country embracing both with some exactness: “On one side (south-east?), it bordered on the Mongol country; on a second (north-east?), it was bounded by the Selenga; on a third (north), by the ‘great river called Angara, which flows on the confines of Ibir-Sibir’ (i.e. of Siberia); on a fourth side by the territory of the Naimans. This great country contained many towns and villages, as well as many nomad inhabitants.” Dr. Bretschneider’s Chinese Traveller speaks of it as a country where good iron was found, where (grey) squirrels abounded, and wheat was cultivated. Other notices quoted by him show that it lay to the south-east of the Kirghiz country, and had its name from the Kien or Ken R. (i.e. the Upper Yenisei).

The name (Kienkien), the general direction, the existence of good iron (“steel and ondanique”), the many towns and villages in a position where we should little look for such an indication, all point to the identity of this region with the Chingintalas of our text. The only alteration called for in the Itinerary Map (No. IV.) would be to spell the name Hinkin, or Ghinghin (as it is in the Geographic Text), and to shift it a very little further to the north.

(See Chingin in Kovalevski’s Mongol Dict., No. 2134; and for Baron-tala, etc., see Della Penna, Breve Notizia del Regno del Thibet, with Klaproth’s notes, p. 6; D’Avezac, p. 568; Relation prefixed to D’Anville’s Atlas, p. 11; Alphabetum Tibetanum, 454; and Kircher, China Illustrata, p. 65.)

Since the first edition was published, Mr. Ney Elias has traversed the region in question from east to west; and I learn from him that at Kobdo he found the most usual name for that town among Mongols, Kalmaks, and Russians to be SANKIN-hoto. He had not then thought of connecting this name with Chinghin-talas, and has therefore no information as to its origin or the extent of its application. But he remarks that Polo’s bearing of between north and north-west, if understood to be from Kamul, would point exactly to Kobdo. He also calls attention to the Lake Sankin-dalai, to the north-east of Uliasut’ai, of which Atkinson gives a sketch. The recurrence of this name over so wide a tract may have something to do with the Chinghin-talas of Polo. But we must still wait for further light.[1]

[“Supposing that M. Polo mentions this place on his way from Sha-chow to Su-chow, it is natural to think that it is Chi-kin-talas, i.e. ‘Chi-kin plain’ or valley; Chi-kin was the name of a lake, called so even now, and of a defile, which received its name from the lake. The latter is on the way from Kia-yü kwan to Ansi chow.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 7.) “Chikin, or more correctly Chigin, is a Mongol word meaning ‘ear.'” (Ibid.) Palladius (p. 8) adds: “The Chinese accounts of Chi-kin are not in contradiction to the statements given by M. Polo regarding the same subject; but when the distances are taken into consideration, a serious difficulty arises; Chi-kin is two hundred and fifty or sixty li distant from Su-chow, whilst, according to M. Polo’s statement, ten days are necessary to cross this distance. One of the three following explanations of this discrepancy must be admitted: either Chingintalas is not Chi-kin, or the traveller’s memory failed, or, lastly, an error crept into the number of days’ journey. The two last suppositions I consider the most probable; the more so that similar difficulties occur several times in Marco Polo’s narrative.” (L.c. p. 8.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—[Ondanique.—We have already referred to this word, Kermán, p. 90. Cobinan, p. 124. La Curne de Sainte-Palaye (Dict.), F. Godefroy (Dict.), Du Cange (Gloss.), all give to andain the meaning of enjambée, from the Latin andare. Godefroy, s.v. andaine, calls it sorte d’acier ou de fer, and quotes besides Marco Polo:

  “I. espiel, ou ot fer d’andaine,
Dont la lamele n’iert pas trouble.”

(Huon de Mery, Le Tornoiement de l’Antechrist, p. 3, Tarbé.)

There is a forest in the department of Orne, arrondissement of Domfront, which belonged to the Crown before 1669, and is now State property, called Forêt d’Andaine; it is situated near some bed of iron. Is this the origin of the name?—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The Altai, or one of its ramifications, is probably the mountain of the text, but so little is known of this part of the Chinese territory that we can learn scarcely anything of its mineral products. Still Martini does mention that asbestos is found “in the Tartar country of Tangu,” which probably is the Tangnu Oola branch of the Altai to the south of the Upper Yenisei, and in the very region we have indicated as Chingintalas. Mr. Elias tells me he inquired for asbestos by its Chinese name at Uliasut’ai, but without success.

NOTE 4.—

  “Degli elementi quattro principali,
Che son la Terra, e l’Acqua, e l’Aria, e’l Foco,
Composti sono gli universi Animali,
Pigliando di ciascuno assai o poco.”
(Dati, La Sfera, p. 9.)

Zurficar in the next sentence is a Mahomedan name, Zu’lfikár, the title of [the edge of] Ali’s sword.

NOTE 5.—Here the G. Text adds: “Et je meisme le vi,” intimating, I conceive, his having himself seen specimens of the asbestos—not to his having been at the place.

NOTE 6.—The story of the Salamander passing unhurt through fire is at least as old as Aristotle. But I cannot tell when the fable arose that asbestos was a substance derived from the animal. This belief, however, was general in the Middle Ages, both in Asia and Europe. “The fable of the Salamander,” says Sir Thomas Browne, “hath been much promoted by stories of incombustible napkins and textures which endure the fire, whose materials are called by the name of Salamander’s wool, which many, too literally apprehending, conceive some investing part or integument of the Salamander…. Nor is this Salamander’s wool desumed from any animal, but a mineral substance, metaphorically so called for this received opinion.”

Those who knew that the Salamander was a lizard-like animal were indeed perplexed as to its woolly coat. Thus the Cardinal de Vitry is fain to say the creature “profert ex cute quasi quamdam lanam de quâ zonae contextae comburi non possunt igne.” A Bestiary, published by Cahier and Martin, says of it: “De lui naist une cose qui n’est ne soie ne lin ne laine.” Jerome Cardan looked in vain, he says, for hair on the Salamander! Albertus Magnus calls the incombustible fibre pluma Salamandri; and accordingly Bold Bauduin de Sebourc finds the Salamander in the Terrestrial Paradise a kind of bird covered with the whitest plumage; of this he takes some, which he gets woven into a cloth; this he presents to the Pope, and the Pontiff applies it to the purpose mentioned in the text, viz. to cover the holy napkin of St. Veronica.

Gervase of Tilbury writes: “I saw, when lately at Rome, a broad strap of Salamander skin, like a girdle for the loins, which had been brought thither by Cardinal Peter of Capua. When it had become somewhat soiled by use, I myself saw it cleaned perfectly, and without receiving harm, by being put in the fire.”

In Persian the creature is called Samandar, Samandal, etc., and some derive the word from Sam, “fire,” and Andar, “within.” Doubtless it is a corruption of the Greek [Greek: Salamándra], whatever be the origin of that. Bakui says the animal is found at Ghur, near Herat, and is like a mouse. Another author, quoted by D’Herbelot, says it is like a marten.

[Sir T. Douglas Forsyth, in his Introductory Remarks to Prjevalsky’s Travels to Lob-nor (p. 20), at Aksu says: “The asbestos mentioned by Marco Polo as a utilized product of this region is not even so known in this country.”—H. C.]

+ Interesting details regarding the fabrication of cloth and paper from amianth or asbestos are contained in a report presented to the French Institute by M. Sage (Mém. Ac. Sciences, 2e Sem., 1806, p. 102), of which large extracts are given in the Diction. général des Tissus, par M. Bezon, 2e éd. vol. ii. Lyon, 1859, p. 5. He mentions that a Sudarium of this material is still shown at the Vatican; we hope it is the cover which Kúblái sent.

[This hope is not to be realized. Mgr. Duchesne, of the Institut de France, writes to me from Rome, from information derived from the keepers of the Vatican Museum, that there is no sudarium from the Great Khan, that indeed part of a sudarium made of asbestos is shown (under glass) in this Museum, about 20 inches long, but it is ancient, and was found in a Pagan tomb of the Appian Way.—H. C.]

M. Sage exhibited incombustible paper made from this material, and had himself seen a small furnace of Chinese origin made from it. Madame Perpenté, an Italian lady, who experimented much with asbestos, found that from a crude mass of that substance threads could be elicited which were ten times the length of the mass itself, and were indeed sometimes several metres in length, the fibres seeming to be involved, like silk in a cocoon. Her process of preparation was much like that described by Marco. She succeeded in carding and reeling the material, made gloves and the like, as well as paper, from it, and sent to the Institute a work printed on such paper.

The Rev. A. Williamson mentions asbestos as found in Shantung. The natives use it for making stoves, crucibles, and so forth.

(Sir T. Browne, I. 293; Bongars, I. 1104; Cahier et Martin, III. 271; Cardan, de Rer. Varietate, VII. 33; Alb. Mag. Opera, 1551, II. 227, 233; Fr. Michel, Recherches, etc., II. 91; Gerv. of Tilbury, p. 13; N. et E. II. 493; D. des Tissus, II. 1-12; J. N. China Branch R. A. S., December, 1867, p. 70.) [Berger de Xivrey, Traditions tératologiques, 457-458, 460-463.—H. C.]

[1] The late Mr. Atkinson has been twice alluded to in this note. I take the opportunity of saying that Mr. Ney Elias, a most competent judge, who has travelled across the region in question whilst admitting, as every one must, Atkinson’s vagueness and sometimes very careless statements, is not at all disposed to discredit the truth of his narrative.



On leaving the province of which I spoke before,[NOTE 1] you ride ten days between north-east and east, and in all that way you find no human dwelling, or next to none, so that there is nothing for our book to speak of.

At the end of those ten days you come to another province called SUKCHUR, in which there are numerous towns and villages. The chief city is called SUKCHU.[NOTE 2] The people are partly Christians and partly Idolaters, and all are subject to the Great Kaan.

The great General Province to which all these three provinces belong is called TANGUT.

Over all the mountains of this province rhubarb is found in great abundance, and thither merchants come to buy it, and carry it thence all over the world.[NOTE 3] [Travellers, however, dare not visit those mountains with any cattle but those of the country, for a certain plant grows there which is so poisonous that cattle which eat it lose their hoofs. The cattle of the country know it and eschew it.[NOTE 4]] The people live by agriculture, and have not much trade. [They are of a brown complexion. The whole of the province is healthy.]

NOTE 1.—Referring apparently to Shachau; see Note 1 and the closing words of last chapter.

NOTE 2.—There is no doubt that the province and city are those of SUHCHAU, but there is a great variety in the readings, and several texts have a marked difference between the name of the province and that of the city, whilst others give them as the same. I have adopted those to which the resultants of the readings of the best texts seem to point, viz. Succiur and Succiu, though with considerable doubt whether they should not be identical. Pauthier declares that Suctur, which is the reading of his favourite MS., is the exact pronunciation, after the vulgar Mongol manner, of Suh-chau-lu, the Lu or circuit of Suhchau; whilst Neumann says that the Northern Chinese constantly add an euphonic particle or to the end of words. I confess to little faith in such refinements, when no evidence is produced.

[Suhchau had been devastated and its inhabitants massacred by Chinghiz
Khan in 1226.—H. C.]

Suhchau is called by Rashiduddin, and by Shah Rukh’s ambassadors, Sukchú, in exact correspondence with the reading we have adopted for the name of the city, whilst the Russian Envoy Boikoff, in the 17th century, calls it “Suktsey, where the rhubarb grows”; and Anthony Jenkinson, in Hakluyt, by a slight metathesis, Sowchick. Suhchau lies just within the extreme north-west angle of the Great Wall. It was at Suhchau that Benedict Goës was detained, waiting for leave to go on to Peking, eighteen weary months, and there he died just as aid reached him.

NOTE 3.—The real rhubarb [Rheum palmatum] grows wild, on very high mountains. The central line of its distribution appears to be the high range dividing the head waters of the Hwang-Ho, Yalung, and Min-Kiang. The chief markets are Siningfu (see ch. lvii.), and Kwan-Kian in Szechwan. In the latter province an inferior kind is grown in fields, but the genuine rhubarb defies cultivation. (See Richthofen, Letters, No. VII. p. 69.) Till recently it was almost all exported by Kiakhta and Russia, but some now comes viâ Hankau and Shanghai.

[“See, on the preparation of the root in China, Gemelli-Careri. (Churchill’s Collect., Bk. III. ch. v. 365.) It is said that when Chinghiz Khan was pillaging Tangut, the only things his minister, Yeh-lü Ch’u-ts’ai, would take as his share of the booty were a few Chinese books and a supply of rhubarb, with which he saved the lives of a great number of Mongols, when, a short time after, an epidemic broke out in the army.” (D’Ohsson, I. 372.—Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 193, note.)

“With respect to rhubarb … the Suchowchi also makes the remark, that the best rhubarb, with golden flowers in the breaking, is gathered in this province (district of Shan-tan), and that it is equally beneficial to men and beasts, preserving them from the pernicious effects of the heat.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 9.)—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—Erba is the title applied to the poisonous growth, which may be either “plant” or “grass.” It is not unlikely that it was a plant akin to the Andromeda ovalifolia, the tradition of the poisonous character of which prevails everywhere along the Himalaya from Nepal to the Indus.

It is notorious for poisoning sheep and goats at Simla and other hill sanitaria; and Dr. Cleghorn notes the same circumstance regarding it that Polo heard of the plant in Tangut, viz. that its effects on flocks imported from the plains are highly injurious, whilst those of the hills do not appear to suffer, probably because they shun the young leaves, which alone are deleterious. Mr. Marsh attests the like fact regarding the Kalmia angustifolia of New England, a plant of the same order (Ericaceae). Sheep bred where it abounds almost always avoid browsing on its leaves, whilst those brought from districts where it is unknown feed upon it and are poisoned.

Firishta, quoting from the Zafar-Námah, says: “On the road from Kashmir towards Tibet there is a plain on which no other vegetable grows but a poisonous grass that destroys all the cattle that taste of it, and therefore no horsemen venture to travel that route.” And Abbé Desgodins, writing from E. Tibet, mentions that sheep and goats are poisoned by rhododendron leaves. (Dr. Hugh Cleghorn in J. Agricultural and Hortic. Society of India, XIV. part 4; Marsh’s Man and Nature, p. 40; Briggs Firishta, IV. 449; Bul. de la Soc. de Géog. 1873, I. 333.)

[“This poisonous plant seems to be the Stipa inebrians described by the late Dr. Hance in the Journal of Bot. 1876, p. 211, from specimens sent to me by Belgian Missionaries from the Ala Shan Mountains, west of the Yellow River.” (Bretschneider, Hist. of Bot. Disc. I. p. 5.)

“M. Polo notices that the cattle not indigenous to the province lose their hoofs in the Suh-chau Mountains; but that is probably not on account of some poisonous grass, but in consequence of the stony ground.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 9.)—H. C.]



Campichu is also a city of Tangut, and a very great and noble one. Indeed it is the capital and place of government of the whole province of Tangut.[NOTE 1] The people are Idolaters, Saracens, and Christians, and the latter have three very fine churches in the city, whilst the Idolaters have many minsters and abbeys after their fashion. In these they have an enormous number of idols, both small and great, certain of the latter being a good ten paces in stature; some of them being of wood, others of clay, and others yet of stone. They are all highly polished, and then covered with gold. The great idols of which I speak lie at length.[NOTE 2] And round about them there are other figures of considerable size, as if adoring and paying homage before them.

Now, as I have not yet given you particulars about the customs of these
Idolaters, I will proceed to tell you about them.

You must know that there are among them certain religious recluses who lead a more virtuous life than the rest. These abstain from all lechery, though they do not indeed regard it as a deadly sin; howbeit if any one sin against nature they condemn him to death. They have an Ecclesiastical Calendar as we have; and there are five days in the month that they observe particularly; and on these five days they would on no account either slaughter any animal or eat flesh meat. On those days, moreover, they observe much greater abstinence altogether than on other days.[NOTE 3]

Among these people a man may take thirty wives, more or less, if he can but afford to do so, each having wives in proportion to his wealth and means; but the first wife is always held in highest consideration. The men endow their wives with cattle, slaves, and money, according to their ability. And if a man dislikes any one of his wives, he just turns her off and takes another. They take to wife their cousins and their fathers’ widows (always excepting the man’s own mother), holding to be no sin many things that we think grievous sins, and, in short, they live like beasts.[NOTE 4]

Messer Maffeo and Messer Marco Polo dwelt a whole year in this city when on a mission.[NOTE 5]

Now we will leave this and tell you about other provinces towards the north, for we are going to take you a sixty days’ journey in that direction.

NOTE 1.—Campichiu is undoubtedly Kanchau, which was at this time, as Pauthier tells us, the chief city of the administration of Kansuh corresponding to Polo’s Tangut. Kansuh itself is a name compounded of the names of the two cities Kan-chau and Suh-chau.

[Kanchau fell under the Tangut dominion in 1208. (Palladius, p. 10.) The
Musulmans mentioned by Polo at Shachau and Kanchau probably came from
Khotan.—H. C.]

The difficulties that have been made about the form of the name Campiciou, etc., in Polo, and the attempts to explain these, are probably alike futile. Quatremère writes the Persian form of the name after Abdurrazzak as Kamtcheou, but I see that Erdmann writes it after Rashid, I presume on good grounds, as Ckamidschu, i.e. Kamiju or Kamichu. And that this was the Western pronunciation of the name is shown by the form which Pegolotti uses, Camexu, i.e. Camechu. The p in Polo’s spelling is probably only a superfluous letter, as in the occasional old spelling of dampnum,contempnere, hympnus, tirampnus, sompnour, Dampne Deu. In fact, Marignolli writes Polo’s Quinsai as Campsay.

It is worthy of notice that though Ramusio’s text prints the names of these two cities as Succuir and Campion, his own pronunciation of them appears to have been quite well understood by the Persian traveller Hajji Mahomed, for it is perfectly clear that the latter recognized in these names Suhchau and Kanchau. (See Ram. II. f. 14v.) The second volume of the Navigationi, containing Polo, was published after Ramusio’s death, and it is possible that the names as he himself read them were more correct (e.g. Succiur, Campjou).

[Illustration: Colossal Figure, Buddha entering Nirvana. “Et si voz di qu’il ont de ydres que sunt grant dix pas…. Ceste grant ydres gigent.”…]

NOTE 2.—This is the meaning of the phrase in the G. T.: “Ceste grande ydre gigent,” as may be seen from Ramusio’s giaciono distesi. Lazari renders the former expression, “giganteggia un idolo,” etc., a phrase very unlike Polo. The circumstance is interesting, because this recumbent Colossus at Kanchau is mentioned both by Hajji Mahomed and by Shah Rukh’s people. The latter say: “In this city of Kanchú there is an Idol-Temple 500 cubits square. In the middle is an idol lying at length which measures 50 paces. The sole of the foot is nine paces long, and the instep is 21 cubits in girth. Behind this image and overhead are other idols of a cubit (?) in height, besides figures of Bakshis as large as life. The action of all is hit off so admirably that you would think they were alive.” These great recumbent figures are favourites in Buddhist countries still, e.g. in Siam, Burma, and Ceylon. They symbolise Sakya Buddha entering Nirvána. Such a recumbent figure, perhaps the prototype of these, was seen by Hiuen Tsang in a Vihara close to the Sál Grove at Kusinágara, where Sakya entered that state, i.e. died. The stature of Buddha was, we are told, 12 cubits; but Brahma, Indra, and the other gods vainly tried to compute his dimensions. Some such rude metaphor is probably embodied in these large images. I have described one 69 feet long in Burma (represented in the cut), but others exist of much greater size, though probably none equal to that which Hiuen Tsang, in the 7th century, saw near Bamian, which was 1000 feet in length! I have heard of but one such image remaining in India, viz. in one of the caves at Dhamnár in Málwa. This is 15 feet long, and is popularly known as “Bhim’s Baby.” (Cathay, etc., pp. cciii., ccxviii.; Mission to Ava, p. 52; V. et V. de H. T., p. 374: Cunningham’s Archael. Reports, ii. 274; Tod, ii. 273.)

[“The temple, in which M. Polo saw an idol of Buddha, represented in a lying position, is evidently Wo-fo-sze, i.e. ‘Monastery of the lying Buddha.’ It was built in 1103 by a Tangut queen, to place there three idols representing Buddha in this posture, which have since been found in the ground on this very spot.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 10.)

Rubruck (p. 144) says, “A Nestorian, who had come from Cathay told me that in that country there is an idol so big that it can be seen from two days off.” Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 144, note) writes, “The largest stone image I have seen is in a cave temple at Yung kan, about 10 miles north-west of Ta t’ung Fu in Shan-si. Père Gerbillon says the Emperor K’ang hsi measured it himself and found it to be 57 chih high (61 feet). (Duhalde, Description, IV. 352.) I have seen another colossal statue in a cave near Pinchou in north-west Shan-si, and there is another about 45 miles south of Ning hsia Fu, near the left bank of the Yellow River. (Rockhill, Land of the Lamas, 26, and Diary, 47.) The great recumbent figure of the ‘Sleeping Buddha’ in the Wo Fo ssu, near Peking, is of clay.”

King Haython (Brosset’s ed. p. 181) mentions the statue in clay, of an extraordinary height, of a God (Buddha) aged 3040 years, who is to live 370,000 years more, when he will be superseded by another god called Madri (Maitreya).—H. C.]

[Illustration: Great Lama Monastery]

NOTE 3.—Marco is now speaking of the Lamas, or clergy of Tibetan Buddhism. The customs mentioned have varied in details, both locally and with the changes that the system has passed through in the course of time.

The institutes of ancient Buddhism set apart the days of new and full moon to be observed by the Sramanas or monks, by fasting, confession, and listening to the reading of the law. It became usual for the laity to take part in the observance, and the number of days was increased to three and then to four, whilst Hiuen Tsang himself speaks of “the six fasts of every month,” and a Chinese authority quoted by Julien gives the days as the 8th, 14th, 15th, 23rd, 29th, and 30th. Fabian says that in Ceylon preaching took place on the 8th, 14th, and 15th days of the month. Four is the number now most general amongst Buddhist nations, and the days may be regarded as a kind of Buddhist Sabbath. In the southern countries and in Nepal they occur at the moon’s changes. In Tibet and among the Mongol Buddhists they are not at equal intervals, though I find the actual days differently stated by different authorities. Pallas says the Mongols observed the 13th, 14th, and 15th, the three days being brought together, he thought, on account of the distance many Lamas had to travel to the temple—just as in some Scotch country parishes they used to give two sermons in one service for like reason! Koeppen, to whose work this note is much indebted, says the Tibetan days are the 14th, 15th, 29th, 30th, and adds as to the manner of observance: “On these days, by rule, among the Lamas, nothing should be tasted but farinaceous food and tea; the very devout refrain from all food from sunrise to sunset. The Temples are decorated, and the altar tables set out with the holy symbols, with tapers, and with dishes containing offerings in corn, meal, tea, butter, etc., and especially with small pyramids of dough, or of rice or clay, and accompanied by much burning of incense-sticks. The service performed by the priests is more solemn, the music louder and more exciting, than usual. The laity make their offerings, tell their beads, and repeat Om mani padma hom,” etc. In the concordat that took place between the Dalai-Lama and the Altun Khaghan, on the reconversion of the Mongols to Buddhism in the 16th century, one of the articles was the entire prohibition of hunting and the slaughter of animals on the monthly fast days. The practice varies much, however, even in Tibet, with different provinces and sects—a variation which the Ramusian text of Polo implies in these words: “For five days, or four days, or three in each month, they shed no blood,” etc.

In Burma the Worship Day, as it is usually called by Europeans, is a very gay scene, the women flocking to the pagodas in their brightest attire. (H. T. Mémoires, I. 6, 208; Koeppen, I. 563-564, II. 139, 307-308; Pallas, Samml. II. 168-169).

NOTE 4.—These matrimonial customs are the same that are afterwards ascribed to the Tartars, so we defer remark.

NOTE 5.—So Pauthier’s text, “en legation.” The G. Text includes Nicolo Polo, and says, “on business of theirs that is not worth mentioning,” and with this Ramusio agrees.



When you leave the city of Campichu you ride for twelve days, and then reach a city called ETZINA, which is towards the north on the verge of the Sandy Desert; it belongs to the Province of Tangut.[NOTE 1] The people are Idolaters, and possess plenty of camels and cattle, and the country produces a number of good falcons, both Sakers and Lanners. The inhabitants live by their cultivation and their cattle, for they have no trade. At this city you must needs lay in victuals for forty days, because when you quit Etzina, you enter on a desert which extends forty days’ journey to the north, and on which you meet with no habitation nor baiting-place.[NOTE 2] In the summer-time, indeed, you will fall in with people, but in the winter the cold is too great. You also meet with wild beasts (for there are some small pine-woods here and there), and with numbers of wild asses.[NOTE 3] When you have travelled these forty days across the Desert you come to a certain province lying to the north. Its name you shall hear presently.

[Illustration: Wild Ass of Mongolia.]

NOTE 1.—Deguignes says that YETSINA is found in a Chinese Map of Tartary of the Mongol era, and this is confirmed by Pauthier, who reads it Itsinai, and adds that the text of the Map names it as one of the seven Lu or Circuits of the Province of Kansuh (or Tangut). Indeed, in D’Anville’s Atlas we find a river called Etsina Pira, running northward from Kanchau, and a little below the 41st parallel joining another from Suhchau. Beyond the junction is a town called Hoa-tsiang, which probably represents Etzina. Yetsina is also mentioned in Gaubil’s History of Chinghiz as taken by that conqueror in 1226, on his last campaign against Tangut. This capture would also seem from Pétis de la Croix to be mentioned by Rashiduddin. Gaubil says the Chinese Geography places Yetsina north of Kanchau and north-east of Suhchau, at a distance of 120 leagues from Kanchau, but observes that this is certainly too great. (Gaubil, p. 49.)

[I believe there can be no doubt that Etzina must be looked for on the river Hei-shui, called Etsina by the Mongols, east of Suhchau. This river empties its waters into the two lakes Soho-omo and Sopo-omo. Etzina would have been therefore situated on the river on the border of the Desert, at the top of a triangle whose bases would be Suhchau and Kanchau. This river was once part of the frontier of the kingdom of Tangut. (Cf. Devéria, Notes d’épigraphie mongolo-chinoise, p. 4.) Reclus (Géog. Univ., Asie Orientale, p. 159) says: “To the east [of Hami], beyond the Chukur Gobi, are to be found also some permanent villages and the remains of cities. One of them is perhaps the ‘cité d’Etzina’ of which Marco Polo speaks, and the name is to be found in that of the river Az-sind.”

“Through Kanchau was the shortest, and most direct and convenient road to I-tsi-nay…. I-tsi-nay, or Echiné, is properly the name of a lake. Khubilaï, disquieted by his factious relatives on the north, established a military post near lake I-tsi-nay, and built a town, or a fort on the south-western shore of this lake. The name of I-tsi-nay appears from that time; it does not occur in the chronicle of the Tangut kingdom; the lake had then another name. Vestiges of the town are seen to this day; the buildings were of large dimensions, and some of them were very fine. In Marco Polo’s time there existed a direct route from I-tsi-nay to Karakorum; traces of this road are still noticeable, but it is no more used. This circumstance, i.e. the existence of a road from I-tsi-nay to Karakorum, probably led Marco Polo to make an excursion (a mental one, I suppose) to the residence of the Khans in Northern Mongolia.” (Palladius, l.c. pp. 10-11.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—”Erberge” (G. T.). Pauthier has Herbage.

NOTE 3.—The Wild Ass of Mongolia is the Dshiggetai of Pallas (Asinus hemionus of Gray), and identical with the Tibetan Kyang of Moorcroft and Trans-Himalayan sportsmen. It differs, according to Blyth, only in shades of colour and unimportant markings from the Ghor Khar of Western India and the Persian Deserts, the Kulan of Turkestan, which Marco has spoken of in a previous passage (suprà, ch. xvi.; J. A. S. B. XXVIII. 229 seqq.). There is a fine Kyang in the Zoological Gardens, whose portrait, after Wolf, is given here. But Mr. Ney Elias says of this animal that he has little of the aspect of his nomadic brethren. [The wild ass (Tibetan Kyang, Mongol Holu or Hulan) is called by the Chinese yeh ma, “wild horse,” though “every one admits that it is an ass, and should be called yeh lo-tzu.” (Rockhill, Land of the Lamas, 151, note.)—H. C.]

[Captain Younghusband (1886) saw in the Altaï Mountains “considerable numbers of wild asses, which appeared to be perfectly similar to the Kyang of Ladak and Tibet, and wild horses too—the Equus Prejevalskii—roaming about these great open plains.” (Proc. R. G. S. X. 1888, p. 495.) Dr. Sven Hedin says the habitat of the Kulan is the heights of Tibet as well as the valley of the Tarim; it looks like a mule with the mane and tail of an ass, but shorter ears, longer than those of a horse; he gives a picture of it.—H. C.]



Caracoron is a city of some three miles in compass. [It is surrounded by a strong earthen rampart, for stone is scarce there. And beside it there is a great citadel wherein is a fine palace in which the Governor resides.] ‘Tis the first city that the Tartars possessed after they issued from their own country. And now I will tell you all about how they first acquired dominion and spread over the world.[NOTE 1]

Originally the Tartars[NOTE 2] dwelt in the north on the borders of CHORCHA.[NOTE 3] Their country was one of great plains; and there were no towns or villages in it, but excellent pasture-lands, with great rivers and many sheets of water; in fact it was a very fine and extensive region. But there was no sovereign in the land. They did, however, pay tax and tribute to a great prince who was called in their tongue UNC CAN, the same that we call Prester John, him in fact about whose great dominion all the world talks.[NOTE 4] The tribute he had of them was one beast out of every ten, and also a tithe of all their other gear.

Now it came to pass that the Tartars multiplied exceedingly. And when Prester John saw how great a people they had become, he began to fear that he should have trouble from them. So he made a scheme to distribute them over sundry countries, and sent one of his Barons to carry this out. When the Tartars became aware of this they took it much amiss, and with one consent they left their country and went off across a desert to a distant region towards the north, where Prester John could not get at them to annoy them. Thus they revolted from his authority and paid him tribute no longer. And so things continued for a time.

NOTE 1.—KARÁKORUM, near the upper course of the River Orkhon, is said by Chinese authors to have been founded by Búkú Khan of the Hoei-Hu or Uigúrs, in the 8th century, In the days of Chinghiz, we are told that it was the headquarters of his ally, and afterwards enemy, Togrul Wang Khan, the Prester John of Polo. [“The name of this famous city is Mongol, Kara, ‘black,’ and Kuren, ‘a camp,’ or properly ‘pailing.'” It was founded in 1235 by Okkodai, who called it Ordu Balik, or “the City of the Ordu,” otherwise “The Royal City.” Mohammedan authors say it took its name of Karákorum from the mountains to the south of it, in which the Orkhon had its source. (D’Ohsson, ii. 64.) The Chinese mention a range of mountains from which the Orkhon flows, called Wu-tê kien shan. (T’ang shu, bk. 43b.) Probably these are the same. Rashiduddin speaks of a tribe of Utikien Uigúrs living in this country. (Bretschneider, Med. Geog. 191; D’Ohsson, i. 437. Rockhill, Rubruck, 220, note.)—Karákorum was called by the Chinese Ho-lin and was chosen by Chinghiz, in 1206, as his capital; the full name of it, Ha-la Ho-lin, was derived from a river to the west. (Yuen shi, ch. lviii.) Gaubil (Holin, p. 10) says that the river, called in his days in Tartar Karoha, was, at the time of the Mongol Emperors, named by the Chinese Ha-la Ho-lin, in Tartar language Ka la Ko lin, or Cara korin, or Kara Koran. In the spring of 1235, Okkodai had a wall raised round Ho-lin and a palace called Wang an, built inside the city. (Gaubil, Gentchiscan, 89.) After the death of Kúblái, Ho-lin was altered into Ho-Ning, and, in 1320, the name of the province was changed into Ling-pé (mountainous north, i.e. the Yin-shan chain, separating China Proper from Mongolia). In 1256, Mangu Kaan decided to transfer the seat of government to Kaiping-fu, or Shangtu, near the present Dolonnor, north of Peking. (Suprà in Prologue, ch. xiii. note 1.) In 1260, Kúblái transferred his capital to Ta-Tu (Peking).

Plano Carpini (1246) is the first Western traveller to mention it by name which he writes Caracoron; he visited the Sira Orda, at half a day’s journey from Karákorum, where Okkodai used to pass the summer; it was situated at a place Ormektua. (Rockhill, Rubruck, 21, III.) Rubruquis (1253) visited the city itself; the following is his account of it: “As regards the city of Caracoron, you must understand that if you set aside the Kaan’s own Palace, it is not as good as the Borough of St. Denis; and as for the Palace, the Abbey of St. Denis is worth ten of it! There are two streets in the town; one of which is occupied by the Saracens, and in that is the marketplace. The other street is occupied by the Cathayans, who are all craftsmen. Besides these two streets there are some great palaces occupied by the court secretaries. There are also twelve idol temples belonging to different nations, two Mahummeries in which the Law of Mahomet is preached, and one church of the Christians at the extremity of the town. The town is enclosed by a mud-wall and has four gates. At the east gate they sell millet and other corn, but the supply is scanty; at the west gate they sell rams and goats; at the south gate oxen and waggons; at the north gate horses…. Mangu Kaan has a great Court beside the Town Rampart, which is enclosed by a brick wall, just like our priories. Inside there is a big palace, within which he holds a drinking-bout twice a year;… there are also a number of long buildings like granges, in which are kept his treasures and his stores of victual” (345-6; 334).

Where was Karákorum situated?

The Archimandrite Palladius is very prudent (l.c. p. 11): “Everything that the studious Chinese authors could gather and say of the situation of Karakhorum is collected in two Chinese works, Lo fung low wen kao (1849), and Mungku yew mu ki (1859). However, no positive conclusion can be derived from these researches, chiefly in consequence of the absence of a tolerably correct map of Northern Mongolia.”

Abel Rémusat (Mém. sur Géog. Asie Centrale, p. 20) made a confusion between Karábalgasun and Karákorum which has misled most writers after him.

Sir Henry Yule says: “The evidence adduced in Abel Rémusat’s paper on Karákorum (Mém. de l’ Acad. R. des Insc. VII. 288) establishes the site on the north bank of the Orkhon, and about five days’ journey above the confluence of the Orkhon and Tula. But as we have only a very loose knowledge of these rivers, it is impossible to assign the geographical position with accuracy. Nor is it likely that ruins exist beyond an outline perhaps of the Kaan’s Palace walls.”

In the Geographical Magazine for July, 1874 (p. 137), Sir Henry Yule has been enabled, by the kind aid of Madame Fedtchenko in supplying a translation from the Russian, to give some account of Mr. Paderin’s visit to the place, in the summer of 1873, along with a sketch-map.

“The site visited by Mr. Paderin is shown, by the particulars stated in that paper, to be sufficiently identified with Karákorum. It is precisely that which Rémusat indicated, and which bears in the Jesuit maps, as published by D’Anville, the name of Talarho Hara Palhassoun (i.e. Kará Balghásun), standing 4 or 5 miles from the left bank of the Orkhon, in lat. (by the Jesuit Tables) 47° 32′ 24″. It is now known as Kara-Kharam (Rampart) or Kara Balghasun (city). The remains consist of a quadrangular rampart of mud and sun-dried brick, of about 500 paces to the side, and now about 9 feet high, with traces of a higher tower, and of an inner rampart parallel to the other. But these remains probably appertain to the city as re-occupied by the descendants of the Yuen in the end of the 14th century, after their expulsion from China.”

Dr. Bretschneider (Med. Res. I. p. 123) rightly observes: “It seems, however, that Paderin is mistaken in his supposition. At least it does not agree with the position assigned to the ancient Mongol residence in the Mongol annals Erdenin erikhe, translated into Russian, in 1883, by Professor Pozdneiev. It is there positively stated (p. 110, note 2) that the monastery of Erdenidsu, founded in 1585, was erected on the ruins of that city, which once had been built by order of Ogotai Khan, and where he had established his residence; and where, after the expulsion of the Mongols from China, Togontemur again had fixed the Mongol court. This vast monastery still exists, one English mile, or more, east of the Orkhon. It has even been astronomically determined by the Jesuit missionaries, and is marked on our maps of Mongolia. Pozdneiev, who visited the place in 1877, obligingly informs me that the square earthen wall surrounding the monastery of Erdenidsu, and measuring about an English mile in circumference, may well be the very wall of ancient Karákorum.”

Recent researches have fully confirmed the belief that the Erdeni Tso, or Eideni Chao, Monastery occupies the site of Karákorum, near the bank of the Orkhon, between this river and the Kokchin (old) Orkhon. (See map in Inscriptions de l’Orkhon, Helsingfors, 1892; a plan of the vicinity and of the Erdeni Tso is given (plate 36) in W. Radloff’s Atlas der Alterthümer der Mongolei, St. Pet., 1892.)


According to a work of the 13th century quoted by the late Professor G. Devéria, the distance between the old capital of the Uighúr, Kara Balgasún, on the left bank of the Orkhon, north of Erdeni Tso, and the Ho-lin or Karákorum of the Mongols, would be 70 li (about 30 miles), and such is the space between Erdeni Tso and Kara Balgasún. M. Marcel Monnier (Itinéraires, p. 107) estimates the bird’s-eye distance from Erdeni Tso to Kara Balgasún at 33 kilom. (about 20-1/2 miles). “When the brilliant epoch of the power of the Chinghizkhanides,” says Professor Axel Heikel, “was at an end, the city of Karákorum fell into oblivion, and towards the year 1590 was founded, in the centre of this historically celebrated region of the Orkhon, the most ancient of Buddhist monasteries of Mongolia, this of Erdeni Tso [Erdeni Chao]. It was built, according to a Mongol chronicle, on the ruins of the town built by Okkodaï, son of Chinghiz Khan, that is to say, on the ancient Karákorum. (Inscriptions de l’Orkhon.)” So Professor Heikel, like Professor Pozdneiev, concludes that Erdeni Tso was built on the site of Karákorum and cannot be mistaken for Karabalgásun. Indeed it is highly probable that one of the walls of the actual convent belonged to the old Mongol capital. The travels and researches by expeditions from Finland and Russia have made these questions pretty clear. Some most interesting inscriptions have been brought home and have been studied by a number of Orientalists: G. Schlegel, O. Donner, G. Devéria, Vasiliev, G. von der Gabelentz, Dr. Hirth, G. Huth, E. H. Parker, W. Bang, etc., and especially Professor Vilh. Thomsen, of Copenhagen, who deciphered them (Déchiffrement des Inscriptions de l’Orkhon et de l’Iénissei, Copenhague, 1894, 8vo; Inscriptions de l’Orkhon déchiffrées, par V. Thomsen, Helsingfors, 1894, 8vo), and Professor W. Radloff of St. Petersburg (Atlas der Alterthumer der Mongolei, 1892-6, fol.; Die alttürkischen Inschriften der Mongolei, 1894-7, etc.). There is an immense literature on these inscriptions, and for the bibliography, I must refer the reader to H. Cordier, Etudes Chinoises (1891-1894), Leide, 1895, Id. (1895-1898), Leide, 1898, 8vo. The initiator of these discoveries was N. Iarindsev, of Irkutsk, who died at Barnaoul in 1894, and the first great expedition was started from Finland in 1890, under the guidance of Professor Axel Heikel. (Inscriptions de l’Orkhon recueillies par l’expédition finnoise, 1890, et publiées par la Société Finno-Ougrienne, Helsingfors, 1892, fol.) The Russian expedition left the following year, 1891, under the direction of the Academician W. Radloff.

M. Chaffanjon (Nouv. Archiv. des Missions Scient. IX., 1899, p. 81), in
1895, does not appear to know that there is a difference between Kará
Korum and Kará Balgásun, as he writes: “Forty kilometres south of Kara
Korum or Kara Balgásun, the convent of Erdin Zoun.”

A plan of Kara Balgásun is given (plate 27) in Radloff’s Atlas. See also Henri Cordier et Gaubil, Situation de Holin en Tartarie, Leide, 1893.

In Rubruquis’s account of Karákorum there is one passage of great interest: “Then master William [Guillaume L’Orfèvre] had made for us an iron to make wafers … he made also a silver box to put the body of Christ in, with relics in little cavities made in the sides of the box.” Now M. Marcel Monnier, who is one of the last, if not the last traveller who visited the region, tells me that he found in the large temple of Erdeni Tso an iron (the cast bore a Latin cross; had the wafer been Nestorian, the cross should have been Greek) and a silver box, which are very likely the objects mentioned by Rubruquis. It is a new proof of the identity of the sites of Erdeni Tso and Karákorum.—H. C.]

[Illustration: Entrance to the Erdeni Tso Great Temple.]

NOTE 2.—[Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, 113, note) says: “The earliest date to which I have been able to trace back the name Tartar is A.D. 732. We find mention made in a Turkish inscription found on the river Orkhon and bearing that date, of the Tokuz Tatar, or ‘Nine (tribes of) Tatars,’ and of theOtuz Tatar, or ‘Thirty (tribes of) Tatars.’ It is probable that these tribes were then living between the Oguz or Uigúr Turks on the west, and the Kitan on the east. (Thomsen, Inscriptions de l’Orkhon, 98, 126, 140.) Mr. Thos. Watters tells me that the Tartars are first mentioned by the Chinese in the period extending from A.D. 860 to 874; the earliest mention I have discovered, however, is under date of A.D. 880. (Wu tai shih, Bk. 4.) We also read in the same work (Bk. 74, 2) that ‘The Ta-ta were a branch of the Mo-ho (the name the Nû-chen Tartars bore during the Sui and T’ang periods: Ma Tuan-lin, Bk. 327, 5). They first lived to the north of the Kitan. Later on they were conquered by this people, when they scattered, a part becoming tributaries of the Kitan, another to the P’o-hai (a branch of the Mo-ho), while some bands took up their abode in the Yin Shan in Southern Mongolia, north of the provinces of Chih-li and Shan-si, and took the name of Ta-ta.’ In 981 the Chinese ambassador to the Prince of Kao-chang (Karakhodjo, some 20 miles south-east of Turfan) traversed the Ta-ta country. They then seem to have occupied the northern bend of the Yellow River. He gives the names of some nine tribes of Ta-ta living on either side of the river. He notes that their neighbours to the east were Kitan, and that for a long time they had been fighting them after the occupation of Kan-chou by the Uigúrs. (Ma Tuan-lin, Bk. 336, 12-14.) We may gather from this that these Tartars were already settled along the Yellow River and the Yin Shan (the valley in which is now the important frontier mart of Kwei-hua Ch’eng) at the beginning of the ninth century, for the Uigúrs, driven southward by the Kirghiz, first occupied Kan-chou in north-western Kan-suh, somewhere about A.D. 842.”]

NOTE 3.—CHORCHA (Ciorcia) is the Manchu country, whose people were at that time called by the Chinese Yuché or Niuché, and by the Mongols Churché, or as it is in Sanang Setzen, Jurchid. The country in question is several times mentioned by Rashiduddin as Churché. The founders of the Kin Dynasty, which the Mongols superseded in Northern China, were of Churché race. [It was part of Nayan’s appanage. (See Bk. II. ch. v.)—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—The idea that a Christian potentate of enormous wealth and power, and bearing this title, ruled over vast tracts in the far East, was universal in Europe from the middle of the 12th to the end of the 13th century, after which time the Asiatic story seems gradually to have died away, whilst the Royal Presbyter was assigned to a locus in Abyssinia; the equivocal application of the term India to the East of Asia and the East of Africa facilitating this transfer. Indeed I have a suspicion, contrary to the view now generally taken, that the term may from the first have belonged to the Abyssinian Prince, though circumstances led to its being applied in another quarter for a time. It appears to me almost certain that the letter of Pope Alexander III., preserved by R. Hoveden, and written in 1177 to the Magnificus Rex Indorum, Sacerdotum sanctissimus, was meant for the King of Abyssinia.

Be that as it may, the inordinate report of Prester John’s magnificence became especially diffused from about the year 1165, when a letter full of the most extravagant details was circulated, which purported to have been addressed by this potentate to the Greek Emperor Manuel, the Roman Emperor Frederick, the Pope, and other Christian sovereigns. By the circulation of this letter, glaring fiction as it is, the idea of this Christian Conqueror was planted deep in the mind of Europe, and twined itself round every rumour of revolution in further Asia. Even when the din of the conquests of Chinghiz began to be audible in the West, he was invested with the character of a Christian King, and more or less confounded with the mysterious Prester John.

The first notice of a conquering Asiatic potentate so styled had been brought to Europe by the Syrian Bishop of Gabala (Jibal, south of Laodicea in Northern Syria), who came, in 1145, to lay various grievances before Pope Eugene III. He reported that not long before a certain John, inhabiting the extreme East, king and Nestorian priest, and claiming descent from the Three Wise Kings, had made war on the Samiard Kings of the Medes and Persians, and had taken Ecbatana their capital. He was then proceeding to the deliverance of Jerusalem, but was stopped by the Tigris, which he could not cross, and compelled by disease in his host to retire.

M. d’Avezac first showed to whom this account must apply, and the subject has more recently been set forth with great completeness and learning by Dr. Gustavus Oppert. The conqueror in question was the founder of Kara Khitai, which existed as a great Empire in Asia during the last two-thirds of the 12th century. This chief was a prince of the Khitan dynasty of Liao, who escaped with a body of followers from Northern China on the overthrow of that dynasty by the Kin or Niuchen about 1125. He is called by the Chinese historians Yeliu Tashi; by Abulghazi, Nuzi Taigri Ili; and by Rashiduddin, Nushi (or Fushi) Taifu. Being well received by the Uighúrs and other tribes west of the Desert who had been subject to the Khitan Empire, he gathered an army and commenced a course of conquest which eventually extended over Eastern and Western Turkestan, including Khwarizm, which became tributary to him. He took the title of Gurkhan, said to mean Universal or Suzerain Khan, and fixed at Bala Sagun, north of the Thian Shan, the capital of his Empire, which became known as Kará (Black) Khitai.[1] [The dynasty being named by the Chinese Si-Liao(Western Liao) lasted till it was destroyed in 1218.—H. C.] In 1141 he came to the aid of the King of Khwarizm against Sanjar the Seljukian sovereign of Persia (whence the Samiard of the Syrian Bishop), who had just taken Samarkand, and defeated that prince with great slaughter. Though the Gurkhan himself is not described to have extended his conquests into Persia, the King of Khwarizm followed up the victory by an invasion of that country, in which he plundered the treasury and cities of Sanjar.

Admitting this Karacathayan prince to be the first conqueror (in Asia, at all events) to whom the name of Prester John was applied, it still remains obscure how that name arose. Oppert supposes that Gurkhan or Kurkhan, softened in West Turkish pronunciation into Yurkan, was confounded with Yochanan or Johannes; but he finds no evidence of the conqueror’s profession of Christianity except the fact, notable certainly, that the daughter of the last of his brief dynasty is recorded to have been a Christian. Indeed, D’Ohsson says that the first Gurkhan was a Buddhist, though on what authority is not clear. There seems a probability at least that it was an error in the original ascription of Christianity to the Karacathayan prince, which caused the confusions as to the identity of Prester John which appear in the next century, of which we shall presently speak. Leaving this doubtful point, it has been plausibly suggested that the title of Presbyter Johannes was connected with the legends of the immortality of John the Apostle ([Greek: ho presbýteros], as he calls himself in the 2nd and 3rd epistles), and the belief referred to by some of the Fathers that he would be the Forerunner of our Lord’s second coming, as John the Baptist had been of His first.

A new theory regarding the original Prester John has been propounded by Professor Bruun of Odessa, in a Russian work entitled The Migrations of Prester John. The author has been good enough to send me large extracts of this essay in (French) translation; and I will endeavour to set forth the main points as well as the small space that can be given to the matter will admit. Some remarks and notes shall be added, but I am not in a position to do justice to Professor Bruun’s views, from the want of access to some of his most important authorities, such as Brosset’s History of Georgia, and its appendices.

It will be well, before going further, to give the essential parts of the passage in the History of Bishop Otto of Freisingen (referred to in vol i. p. 229), which contains the first allusion to a personage styled Prester John:

“We saw also there [at Rome in 1145] the afore-mentioned Bishop of Gabala, from Syria…. We heard him bewailing with tears the peril of the Church beyond-sea since the capture of Edessa, and uttering his intention on that account to cross the Alps and seek aid from the King of the Romans and the King of the Franks. He was also telling us how, not many years before, one JOHN, KING and PRIEST, who dwells in the extreme Orient beyond Persia and Armenia, and is (with his people) a Christian, but a Nestorian, had waged war against the brother Kings of the Persians and Medes who are called the Samiards, and had captured Ecbatana, of which we have spoken above, the seat of their dominion. The said Kings having met him with their forces made up of Persians, Medes, and Assyrians, the battle had been maintained for 3 days, either side preferring death to flight. But at last PRESBYTER JOHN (for so they are wont to style him), having routed the Persians, came forth the victor from a most sanguinary battle. After this victory (he went on to say) the aforesaid John was advancing to fight in aid of the Church at Jerusalem; but when he arrived at the Tigris, and found there no possible means of transport for his army, he turned northward, as he had heard that the river in that quarter was frozen over in winter-time. Halting there for some years[2] in expectation of a frost, which never came, owing to the mildness of the season, he lost many of his people through the unaccustomed climate, and was obliged to return homewards. This personage is said to be of the ancient race of those Magi who are mentioned in the Gospel, and to rule the same nations that they did, and to have such glory and wealth that he uses (they say) only an emerald sceptre. It was (they say) from his being fired by the example of his fathers, who came to adore Christ in the cradle, that he was proposing to go to Jerusalem, when he was prevented by the cause already alleged.”

Professor Bruun will not accept Oppert’s explanation, which identifies this King and Priest with the Gur-Khan of Karacathay, for whose profession of Christianity there is indeed (as has been indicated—supra) no real evidence; who could not be said to have made an attack upon any pair of brother Kings of the Persians and the Medes, nor to have captured Ecbatana (a city, whatever its identity, of Media); who could never have had any intention of coming to Jerusalem; and whose geographical position in no way suggested the mention of Armenia.

Professor Bruun thinks he finds a warrior much better answering to the indications in the Georgian prince John Orbelian, the general-in-chief under several successive Kings of Georgia in that age.

At the time when the Gur-Khan defeated Sanjar the real brothers of the latter had been long dead; Sanjar had withdrawn from interference with the affairs of Western Persia; and Hamadán (if this is to be regarded as Ecbatana) was no residence of his. But it was the residence of Sanjar’s nephew Mas’úd, in whose hands was now the dominion of Western Persia; whilst Mas’úd’s nephew, Dáúd, held Media, i.e. Azerbeiján, Arrán, and Armenia. It is in these two princes that Professor Bruun sees the Samiardi fratres of the German chronicler.

Again the expression “extreme Orient” is to be interpreted by local usage. And with the people of Little Armenia, through whom probably such intelligence reached the Bishop of Gabala, the expression the East signified specifically Great Armenia (which was then a part of the kingdom of Georgia and Abkhasia), as Dulaurier has stated.[3]

It is true that the Georgians were not really Nestorians, but followers of the Greek Church. It was the fact, however, that in general, the Armenians, whom the Greeks accused of following the Jacobite errors, retorted upon members of the Greek Church with the reproach of the opposite heresy of Nestorianism. And the attribution of Nestorianism to a Georgian Prince is, like the expression “extreme East,” an indication of the Armenian channel through which the story came.

The intention to march to the aid of the Christians in Palestine is more like the act of a Georgian General than that of a Karacathayan Khan; and there are in the history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem several indications of the proposal at least of Georgian assistance.

The personage in question is said to have come from the country of the
Magi, from whom he was descended. But these have frequently been supposed
to come from Great Armenia. E.g. Friar Jordanus says they came from

The name Ecbatana has been so variously applied that it was likely to lead to ambiguities. But it so happens that, in a previous passage of his History, Bishop Otto of Freisingen, in rehearsing some Oriental information gathered apparently from the same Bishop of Gabala, has shown what was the place that he had been taught to identify with Ecbatana, viz. the old Armenian city of ANI.[5] Now this city was captured from the Turks, on behalf of the King of Georgia, David the Restorer, by his great sbasalar,[6] John Orbelian, in 1123-24.

Professor Bruun also lays stress upon a passage in a German chronicle of date some years later than Otho’s work:

“1141. Liupoldus dux Bawariorum obiit, Henrico fratre ejus succedente in ducatu. Iohannes Presbyter Rex Armeniae et Indiae cum duobus regibus fratribus Persarum et Medorum pugnavit et vicit.”[7]

He asks how the Gur-Khan of Karakhitai could be styled King of Armenia and of India? It may be asked, per contra, how either the King of Georgia or his Peshwa (to use the Mahratta analogy of John Orbelian’s position) could be styled King of Armenia and of India? In reply to this, Professor Bruun adduces a variety of quotations which he considers as showing that the term India was applied to some Caucasian region.

My own conviction is that the report of Otto of Freisingen is not merely the first mention of a great Asiatic potentate called Prester John, but that his statement is the whole and sole basis of good faith on which the story of such a potentate rested; and I am quite as willing to believe, on due evidence, that the nucleus of fact to which his statement referred, and on which such a pile of long-enduring fiction was erected, occurred in Armenia as that it occurred in Turan. Indeed in many respects the story would thus be more comprehensible. One cannot attach any value to the quotation from the Annalist in Pertz, because there seems no reason to doubt that the passage is a mere adaptation of the report by Bishop Otto, of whose work the Annalist makes other use, as is indeed admitted by Professor Bruun, who (be it said) is a pattern of candour in controversy. But much else that the Professor alleges is interesting and striking. The fact that Azerbeijan and the adjoining regions were known as “the East” is patent to the readers of this book in many a page, where the Khan and his Mongols in occupation of that region are styled by Polo Lord of the LEVANT, Tartars of the LEVANT (i.e. of the East), even when the speaker’s standpoint is in far Cathay.[8] The mention of Aní as identical with the Ecbatana of which Otto had heard is a remarkable circumstance which I think even Oppert has overlooked. That this Georgian hero was a Christian and that his name was John are considerable facts. Oppert’s conversion of Korkhan into Yokhanan or John is anything but satisfactory. The identification proposed again makes it quite intelligible how the so-called Prester John should have talked about coming to the aid of the Crusaders; a point so difficult to explain on Oppert’s theory, that he has been obliged to introduce a duplicate John in the person of a Greek Emperor to solve that knot; another of the weaker links in his argument. In fact, Professor Bruun’s thesis seems to me more than fairly successful in paving the way for the introduction of a Caucasian Prester John; the barriers are removed, the carpets are spread, the trumpets sound royally—but the conquering hero comes not!

He does very nearly come. The almost royal power and splendour of the Orbelians at this time is on record: “They held the office of Sbasalar or Generalissimo of all Georgia. All the officers of the King’s Palace were under their authority. Besides that they had 12 standards of their own, and under each standard 1000 warriors mustered. As the custom was for the King’s flag to be white and the pennon over it red, it was ruled that the Orpelian flag should be red and the pennon white…. At banquets they alone had the right to couches whilst other princes had cushions only. Their food was served on silver; and to them it belonged to crown the kings.”[9] Orpel Ivané, i.e. John Orbelian, Grand Sbasalar, was for years the pride of Georgia and the hammer of the Turks. In 1123-1124 he wrested from them Tiflis and the whole country up to the Araxes, including Ani, as we have said. His King David, the Restorer, bestowed on him large additional domains from the new conquests; and the like brilliant service and career of conquest was continued under David’s sons and successors, Demetrius and George; his later achievements, however, and some of the most brilliant, occurring after the date of the Bishop of Gabala’s visit to Rome. But still we hear of no actual conflict with the chief princes of the Seljukian house, and of no event in his history so important as to account for his being made to play the part of Presbyter Johannes in the story of the Bishop of Gabala. Professor Bruun’s most forcible observation in reference to this rather serious difficulty is that the historians have transmitted to us extremely little detail concerning the reign of Demetrius II., and do not even agree as to its duration. Carebat vate sacro: “It was,” says Brosset, “long and glorious, but it lacked a commemorator.” If new facts can be alleged, the identity may still be proved. But meantime the conquests of the Gur-Khan and his defeat of Sanjar, just at a time which suits the story, are indubitable, and this great advantage Oppert’s thesis retains. As regards the claim to the title of Presbyter nothing worth mentioning is alleged on either side.

When the Mongol Conquests threw Asia open to Frank travellers in the middle of the 13th century, their minds were full of Prester John; they sought in vain for an adequate representative, but it was not in the nature of things but they should find some representative. In fact they found several. Apparently no real tradition existed among the Eastern Christians of any such personage, but the persistent demand produced a supply, and the honour of identification with Prester John, after hovering over one head and another, settled finally upon that of the King of the Keraits, whom we find to play the part in our text.

Thus in Plano Carpini’s single mention of Prester John as the King of the Christians of India the Greater, who defeats the Tartars by an elaborate stratagem, Oppert recognizes Sultan Jaláluddín of Khwarizm and his temporary success over the Mongols in Afghanistan. In the Armenian Prince Sempad’s account, on the other hand, this Christian King of India is aided by the Tartars to defeat and harass the neighbouring Saracens, his enemies, and becomes the Mongol’s vassal. In the statement of Rubruquis, though distinct reference is made to the conquering Gurkhan (under the name of Coir Cham of Caracatay), the title of King John is assigned to the Naiman Prince (Kushluk), who had married the daughter of the last lineal sovereign of Karakhitai, and usurped his power, whilst, with a strange complication of confusion, UNC, Prince of the Crit and Merkit (Kerait and Merkit, two great tribes of Mongolia)[10] and Lord of Karákorum, is made the brother and successor of this Naiman Prince. His version of the story, as it proceeds, has so much resemblance to Polo’s, that we shall quote the words. The Crit and Merkit, he says, were Nestorian Christians. “But their Lord had abandoned the worship of Christ to follow idols, and kept by him those priests of the idols who are all devil-raisers and sorcerers. Beyond his pastures, at the distance of ten or fifteen days’ journey, were the pastures of the MOAL (Mongol), who were a very poor people, without a leader and without any religion except sorceries and divinations, such as all the people of those parts put so much faith in. Next to Moal was another poor tribe called TARTAR. King John having died without an heir, his brother Unc got his wealth, and caused himself to be proclaimed Cham, and sent out his flocks and herds even to the borders of Moal. At that time there was a certain blacksmith called Chinghis among the tribe of Moal, and he used to lift the cattle of Unc Chan as often as he had a chance, insomuch that the herdsmen of Unc Chan made complaint to their master. The latter assembled an army, and invaded the land of the Moal in search of Chinghis, but he fled and hid himself among the Tartars. So Unc, having plundered the Moal and Tartars, returned home. And Chinghis addressed the Tartars and Moal, saying: ‘It is because we have no leader that we are thus oppressed by our neighbours.’ So both Tartars and Moal made Chinghis himself their leader and captain. And having got a host quietly together, he made a sudden onslaught upon Unc and conquered him, and compelled him to flee into Cathay. On that occasion his daughter was taken, and given by Chinghis to one of his sons, to whom she bore Mangu, who now reigneth…. The land in which they (the Mongols) first were, and where the residence of Chinghis still exists, is called Onan Kerule.[11] But because Caracoran is in the country which was their first conquest, they regard it as a royal city, and there hold the elections of their Chan.”

Here we see plainly that the Unc Chan of Rubruquis is the Unc Can or Unecan of Polo. In the narrative of the former, Unc is only connected with King or Prester John; in that of the latter, rehearsing the story as heard some 20 or 25 years later, the two are identified. The shadowy rôle of Prester John has passed from the Ruler of Kara Khitai to the Chief of the Keraits. This transfer brings us to another history.

We have already spoken of the extensive diffusion of Nestorian Christianity in Asia during the early and Middle Ages. The Christian historian Gregory Abulfaraj relates a curious history of the conversion, in the beginning of the 11th century, of the King of Kerith with his people, dwelling in the remote north-east of the land of the Turks. And that the Keraits continued to profess Christianity down to the time of Chinghiz is attested by Rashiduddin’s direct statement, as well as by the numerous Christian princesses from that tribe of whom we hear in Mongol history. It is the chief of this tribe of whom Rubruquis and Polo speak under the name of Unc Khan, and whom the latter identifies with Prester John. His proper name is called Tuli by the Chinese, and Togrul by the Persian historians, but the Kin sovereign of Northern China had conferred on him the title of Wang or King, from which his people gave him the slightly corrupted cognomen of [Arabic], which some scholars read Awang, and Avenk Khan, but which the spelling of Rubruquis and Polo shows probably to have been pronounced as Aung or Ung Khan.[12] The circumstance stated by Rubruquis of his having abandoned the profession of Christianity, is not alluded to by Eastern writers; but in any case his career is not a credit to the Faith. I cannot find any satisfactory corroboration of the claims of supremacy over the Mongols which Polo ascribes to Aung Khan. But that his power and dignity were considerable, appears from the term Pádsháh which Rashiduddin applies to him. He had at first obtained the sovereignty of the Keraits by the murder of two of his brothers and several nephews. Yessugai, the father of Chinghiz, had been his staunch friend, and had aided him effectually to recover his dominion from which he had been expelled. After a reign of many years he was again ejected, and in the greatest necessity sought the help of Temujin (afterwards called Chinghiz Khan), by whom he was treated with the greatest consideration. This was in 1196. For some years the two chiefs conducted their forays in alliance, but differences sprang up between them; the son of Aung Khan entered into a plot to kill Temujin, and in 1202-1203 they were in open war. The result will be related in connection with the next chapters.

We may observe that the idea which Joinville picked up in the East about Prester John corresponds pretty closely with that set forth by Marco. Joinville represents him as one of the princes to whom the Tartars were tributary in the days of their oppression, and as “their ancient enemy”; one of their first acts, on being organized under a king of their own, was to attack him and conquer him, slaying all that bore arms, but sparing all monks and priests. The expression used by Joinville in speaking of the original land of the Tartars, “une grande berrie de sablon,” has not been elucidated in any edition that I have seen. It is the Arabic [Arabic] Bäríya, “a Desert.” No doubt Joinville learned the word in Palestine. (See Joinville, p. 143 seqq.; see also Oppert, Der Presb. Johannes in Sage und Geschichte, and Cathay, etc., pp. 173-182.) [Fried. Zarncke, Der Priester Johannes; Cordier, Odoric.—H. C.]

[1] A passage in Mirkhond extracted by Erdmann (Temudschín, p. 532) seems to make Bálá Sághún the same as Bishbálik, now Urumtsi, but this is inconsistent with other passages abstracted by Oppert (Presbyter Johan. 131-32); and Vámbéry indicates a reason for its being sought very much further west (H. of Bokhara, 116). [Dr. Bretschneider (Med. Res.) has a chapter on Kara-Khitaí (I. 208 seqq.) and in a long note on Bala Sagun, which he calls Belasagun, he says (p. 226) that “according to the Tarikh Djihan Kúshai (d’Ohsson, i. 433), the city of Belasagun had been founded by Buku Khan, sovereign of the Uigurs, in a well-watered plain of Turkestan with rich pastures. The Arabian geographers first mention Belasagun, in the ninth or tenth century, as a city beyond the Sihun or Yaxartes, depending on Isfidjab (Sairam, according to Lerch), and situated east of Taras. They state that the people of Turkestan considered Belasagun to represent ‘the navel of the earth,’ on account of its being situated in the middle between east and west, and likewise between north and south.” (Sprenger’s Poststr. d. Or., Mavarannahar). Dr. Bretschneider adds (p. 227): “It is not improbable that ancient Belasagun was situated at the same place where, according to the T’ang history, the Khan of one branch of the Western T’u Kue (Turks) had his residence in the seventh century. It is stated in the T’ang shu that Ibi Shabolo Shehu Khan, who reigned in the first half of the seventh century, placed his ordo on the northern border of the river Sui ye. This river, and a city of the same name, are frequently mentioned in the T’ang annals of the seventh and eighth centuries, in connection with the warlike expeditions of the Chinese in Central Asia. Sui ye was situated on the way from the river Ili to the city of Ta-lo-sz’ (Talas). In 679 the Chinese had built on the Sui ye River a fortress; but in 748 they were constrained to destroy it.” (Comp. Visdelou in Suppl. Bibl. Orient. pp. 110-114; Gaubil’s Hist. de la Dyn. des Thang, in Mém. conc. Chin. xv. p. 403 seqq.).—H. C.]

[2] Sic: Per aliquot annos, but an evident error.

[3] J. As. sér. V. tom. xi. 449.

[4] The Great Plain on the Lower Araxes and Cyrus. The word Moghán = Magi: and Abulfeda quotes this as the etymology of the name. (Reinaud’s Abulf. I. 300.)—Y. [Cordier, Odoric, 36.]

[5] Here is the passage, which is worth giving for more reasons than one:

“That portion of ancient Babylon which is still occupied is (as we have heard from persons of character from beyond sea) styled BALDACH, whilst the part that lies, according to the prophecy, deserted and pathless extends some ten miles to the Tower of Babel The inhabited portion called Baldach is very large and populous; and though it should belong to the Persian monarchy it has been conceded by the Kings of the Persians to their High Priest, whom they call the Caliph; in order that in this also a certain analogy [quaedam habitudo] such as has been often remarked before, should be exhibited between Babylon and Rome. For the same (privilege) that here in the city of Rome has been made over to our chief Pontiff by the Christian Emperor, has there been conceded to their High Priest by the Pagan Kings of Persia, to whom Babylonia has for a long time been subject. But the Kings of the Persians (just as our Kings have their royal city, like Aachen) have themselves established the seat of their kingdom at Egbatana, which, in the Book of Judith, Arphaxat is said to have founded, and which in their tongue is called HANI, containing as they allege 100,000 or more fighting men, and have reserved to themselves nothing of Babylon except the nominal dominion. Finally, the place which is now vulgarly called Babylonia, as I have mentioned, is not upon the Euphrates (at all) as people suppose, but on the Nile, about 6 days’ journey from Alexandria, and is the same as Memphis, to which Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, anciently gave the name of Babylon.”—Ottonis Frising. Lib. VII. cap. 3, in Germanic Hist. Illust. etc. Christiani Urstisii Basiliensis, Francof. 1585.—Y.

[6] Sbasalar, or “General-in-chief,” = Pers. Sipáhsálár.—Y.

[7] Continuatio Ann. Admutensium, in Pertz, Scriptores, IX. 580.

[8] E.g. ii. 42.

[9] St. Martin, Mém. sur l’Arménie, II. 77.

[10] [“The Keraits,” says Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, 111, note), “lived on the Orkhon and the Tula, south-east of Lake Baikal; Abulfaraj relates their conversion to Christianity in 1007 by the Nestorian Bishop of Merv. Rashideddin, however, says their conversion took place in the time of Chingis Khan. (D’Ohsson, I. 48; Chabot, Mar Jabalaha, III. 14.) D’Avezac (536) identifies, with some plausibility, I think, the Keraits with the Kí-lê (or T’íeh-lê) of the early Chinese annals. The name K’í-lê was applied in the 3rd century A.D. to all the Turkish tribes, such as the Hui-hu (Uigúrs), Kieh-Ku (Kirghiz) Alans, etc., and they are said to be the same as the Kao-ch’ê, from whom descended the Cangle of Rubruck. (T’ang shu, Bk. 217, i.; Ma Tuan-lin, Bk. 344, 9, Bk. 347, 4.) As to the Merkits, or Merkites, they were a nomadic people of Turkish stock, with a possible infusion of Mongol blood. They are called by Mohammedan writers Uduyut, and were divided into four tribes. They lived on the Lower Selinga and its feeders. (D’Ohsson, i. 54; Howorth, History, I., pt. i. 22, 698.)”—H. C.]

[11] [Onan Kerule is “the country watered by the Orkhon and Kerulun Rivers, i.e. the country to the south and south-east of Lake Baikal. The headquarters (ya-chang) of the principal chief of the Uigurs in the eighth century was 500 li (about 165 miles) south-west of the confluence of the Wen-Kun ho (Orkhon) and the Tu-lo ho (Tura). Its ruins, sometimes, but wrongly, confounded with those of the Mongol city of Karakorum, some 20 miles from it, built in 1235 by Ogodai, are now known by the name of Kara Balgasun, ‘Black City.'” [See p. 228.] The name Onankerule seems to be taken from the form Onan-ou- Keloran, which occurs in Mohammedan writers. (Quatremère, 115 et seq.; see also T’ang shu, Bk. 43b; Rockhill, Rubruck, 116, note.)—H. C.]

[12] Vámbéry makes Ong an Uighúr word, signifying “right.” [Palladius (l.c. 23) says: “The consonance of the names of Wang-Khan and Wang-Ku (Ung-Khan and Ongu—Ongot of Rashiduddin, a Turkish Tribe) led to the confusion regarding the tribes and persons, which at M. Polo’s time seems to have been general among the Europeans in China; M. Polo and Johannes de Monte Corvino transfer the title of Prester John from Wang-Khan, already perished at that time, to the distinguished family of Wang-Ku.”—H. C.]



Now it came to pass in the year of Christ’s Incarnation 1187 that the Tartars made them a King whose name was CHINGHIS KAAN.[NOTE 1] He was a man of great worth, and of great ability (eloquence), and valour. And as soon as the news that he had been chosen King was spread abroad through those countries, all the Tartars in the world came to him and owned him for their Lord. And right well did he maintain the Sovereignty they had given him. What shall I say? The Tartars gathered to him in astonishing multitude, and when he saw such numbers he made a great furniture of spears and arrows and such other arms as they used, and set about the conquest of all those regions till he had conquered eight provinces. When he conquered a province he did no harm to the people or their property, but merely established some of his own men in the country along with a proportion of theirs, whilst he led the remainder to the conquest of other provinces. And when those whom he had conquered became aware how well and safely he protected them against all others, and how they suffered no ill at his hands, and saw what a noble prince he was, then they joined him heart and soul and became his devoted followers. And when he had thus gathered such a multitude that they seemed to cover the earth, he began to think of conquering a great part of the world. Now in the year of Christ 1200 he sent an embassy to Prester John, and desired to have his daughter to wife. But when Prester John heard that Chinghis Kaan demanded his daughter in marriage he waxed very wroth, and said to the Envoys, “What impudence is this, to ask my daughter to wife! Wist he not well that he was my liegeman and serf? Get ye back to him and tell him that I had liever set my daughter in the fire than give her in marriage to him, and that he deserves death at my hand, rebel and traitor that he is!” So he bade the Envoys begone at once, and never come into his presence again. The Envoys, on receiving this reply, departed straightway, and made haste to their master, and related all that Prester John had ordered them to say, keeping nothing back.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—Temujin was born in the year 1155, according to all the Persian historians, who are probably to be relied on; the Chinese put the event in 1162. 1187 does not appear to be a date of special importance in his history. His inauguration as sovereign under the name of Chinghiz Kaan was in 1202 according to the Persian authorities, in 1206 according to the Chinese.

In a preceding note (p. 236) we have quoted a passage in which Rubruquis calls Chinghiz “a certain blacksmith.” This mistaken notion seems to have originated in the resemblance of his name Temújin to the Turki Temúrjí, a blacksmith; but it was common throughout Asia in the Middle Ages, and the story is to be found not only in Rubruquis, but in the books of Hayton, the Armenian prince, and of Ibn Batuta, the Moor. That cranky Orientalist, Dr. Isaac Jacob Schmidt, positively reviles William Rubruquis, one of the most truthful and delightful of travellers, and certainly not inferior to his critic in mother-wit, for adopting this story, and rebukes Timkowski—not for adopting it, but for merely telling us the very interesting fact that the story was still, in 1820, current in Mongolia. (Schmidt’s San. Setz. 376, and Timkowski, I. 147.)

NOTE 2.—Several historians, among others Abulfaraj, represent Chinghiz as having married a daughter of Aung Khan; and this is current among some of the mediaeval European writers, such as Vincent of Beauvais. It is also adopted by Pétis de la Croix in his history of Chinghiz, apparently from a comparatively late Turkish historian; and both D’Herbelot and St. Martin state the same; but there seems to be no foundation for it in the best authorities: either Persian or Chinese. (See Abulfaragius, p. 285; Speculum Historiale, Bk. XXIX. ch. lxix.; Hist. of Genghiz Can, p. 29; andGolden Horde, pp. 61-62.) But there is a real story at the basis of Polo’s, which seems to be this: About 1202, when Aung Khan and Chinghiz were still acting in professed alliance, a double union was proposed between Aung Khan’s daughter Jaur Bigi and Chinghiz’s son Juji, and between Chinghiz’s daughter Kijin Bigi and Togrul’s grandson Kush Buka. From certain circumstances this union fell through, and this was one of the circumstances which opened the breach between the two chiefs. There were, however, several marriages between the families. (Erdmann, 283; others are quoted under ch. lix., note 2.)



When Chinghis Kaan heard the brutal message that Prester John had sent him, such rage seized him that his heart came nigh to bursting within him, for he was a man of a very lofty spirit. At last he spoke, and that so loud that all who were present could hear him: “Never more might he be prince if he took not revenge for the brutal message of Prester John, and such revenge that insult never in this world was so dearly paid for. And before long Prester John should know whether he were his serf or no!”

So then he mustered all his forces, and levied such a host as never before was seen or heard of, sending word to Prester John to be on his defence. And when Prester John had sure tidings that Chinghis was really coming against him with such a multitude, he still professed to treat it as a jest and a trifle, for, quoth he, “these be no soldiers.” Natheless he marshalled his forces and mustered his people, and made great preparations, in order that if Chinghis did come, he might take him and put him to death. In fact he marshalled such an host of many different nations that it was a world’s wonder.

And so both sides gat them ready to battle. And why should I make a long story of it? Chinghis Kaan with all his host arrived at a vast and beautiful plain which was called Tanduc, belonging to Prester John, and there he pitched his camp; and so great was the multitude of his people that it was impossible to number them. And when he got tidings that Prester John was coming, he rejoiced greatly, for the place afforded a fine and ample battle-ground, so he was right glad to tarry for him there, and greatly longed for his arrival.

But now leave we Chinghis and his host, and let us return to Prester John and his people.



Now the story goes that when Prester John became aware that Chinghis with his host was marching against him, he went forth to meet him with all his forces, and advanced until he reached the same plain of Tanduc, and pitched his camp over against that of Chinghis Kaan at a distance of 20 miles. And then both armies remained at rest for two days that they might be fresher and heartier for battle.[NOTE 1]

So when the two great hosts were pitched on the plains of Tanduc as you have heard, Chinghis Kaan one day summoned before him his astrologers, both Christians and Saracens, and desired them to let him know which of the two hosts would gain the battle, his own or Prester John’s. The Saracens tried to ascertain, but were unable to give a true answer; the Christians, however, did give a true answer, and showed manifestly beforehand how the event should be. For they got a cane and split it lengthwise, and laid one half on this side and one half on that, allowing no one to touch the pieces. And one piece of cane they called Chinghis Kaan, and the other piece they called Prester John. And then they said to Chinghis: “Now mark! and you will see the event of the battle, and who shall have the best of it; for whose cane soever shall get above the other, to him shall victory be.” He replied that he would fain see it, and bade them begin. Then the Christian astrologers read a Psalm out of the Psalter, and went through other incantations. And lo! whilst all were beholding, the cane that bore the name of Chinghis Kaan, without being touched by anybody, advanced to the other that bore the name of Prester John, and got on the top of it. When the Prince saw that he was greatly delighted, and seeing how in this matter he found the Christians to tell the truth, he always treated them with great respect, and held them for men of truth for ever after.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—Polo in the preceding chapter has stated that this plain of Tanduc was in Prester John’s country. He plainly regards it as identical with the Tanduc of which he speaks more particularly in ch. lix. as belonging to Prester John’s descendants, and which must be located near the Chinese Wall. He is no doubt wrong in placing the battle there. Sanang Setzen puts the battle between the two, the only one which he mentions, “at the outflow of the Onon near Kulen Buira.” The same action is placed by De Mailla’s authorities at Calantschan, by P. Hyacinth at Kharakchin Schatu, by Erdmann after Rashid in the vicinity of Hulun Barkat and Kalanchinalt, which latter was on the borders of the Churché or Manchus. All this points to the vicinity of Buir Nor and Hulan or Kalon Nor (though the Onon is far from these). But this was not the final defeat of Aung Khan or Prester John, which took place some time later (in 1203) at a place called the Chacher Ondur (or Heights), which Gaubil places between the Tula and the Kerulun, therefore near the modern Urga. Aung Khan was wounded, and fled over the frontier of the Naiman; the officers of that tribe seized and killed him. (Schmidt, 87, 383; Erdmann, 297; Gaubil, p. 10.)

NOTE 2.—A Tartar divination by twigs, but different from that here employed, is older than Herodotus, who ascribes it to the Scythians. We hear of one something like the last among the Alans, and (from Tacitus) among the Germans. The words of Hosea (iv. 12), “My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them,” are thus explained by Theophylactus: “They stuck up a couple of sticks, whilst murmuring certain charms and incantations; the sticks then, by the operation of devils, direct or indirect, would fall over, and the direction of their fall was noted,” etc. The Chinese method of divination comes still nearer to that in the text. It is conducted by tossing in the air two symmetrical pieces of wood or bamboo of a peculiar form. It is described by Mendoza, and more particularly, with illustrations, by Doolittle.[1]

But Rubruquis would seem to have witnessed nearly the same process that Polo describes. He reprehends the conjuring practices of the Nestorian priests among the Mongols, who seem to have tried to rival the indigenous Káms or Medicine-men. Visiting the Lady Kuktai, a Christian Queen of Mangu Kaan, who was ill, he says: “The Nestorians were repeating certain verses, I know not what (they said it was part of a Psalm), over two twigs which were brought into contact in the hands of two men. The monk stood by during the operation” (p. 326).[2] Pétis de la Croix quotes from Thévenot’s travels, a similar mode of divination as much used, before a fight, among the Barbary corsairs. Two men sit on the deck facing one another and each holding two arrows by the points, and hitching the notches of each pair of arrows into the other pair. Then the ship’s writer reads a certain Arabic formula, and it is pretended that whilst this goes on, the two sets of arrows, of which one represents the Turks and the other the Christians, struggle together in spite of the resistance of the holders, and finally one rises over the other. This is perhaps the divination by arrows which is prohibited in the Koran. (Sura, V. v. 92.) It is related by Abulfeda that Mahomed found in the Kaaba an image of Abraham with such arrows in his hand.

P. della Valle describes the same process, conducted by a Mahomedan conjuror of Aleppo: “By his incantations he made the four points of the arrows come together without any movement of the holders, and by the way the points spontaneously placed themselves, obtained answers to interrogatories.”

And Mr. Jaeschke writes from Lahaul: “There are many different ways of divination practised among the Buddhists; and that also mentioned by Marco Polo is known to our Lama, but in a slightly different way, making use of two arrows instead of a cane split up, wherefore this kind is calledda-mo, ‘Arrow-divination.'” Indeed the practice is not extinct in India, for in 1833 Mr. Vigne witnessed its application to detect the robber of a government chest at Lodiana.

As regards Chinghiz’s respect for the Christians there are other stories. Abulfaragius has one about Chinghiz seeing in a dream a religious person who promised him success. He told the dream to his wife, Aung Khan’s daughter, who said the description answered to that of the bishop who used to visit her father. Chinghiz then inquired for a bishop among the Uighúr Christians in his camp, and they indicated Mar Denha. Chinghiz thenceforward was milder towards the Christians, and showed them many distinctions (p. 285). Vincent of Beauvais also speaks of Rabbanta, a Nestorian monk, who lived in the confidence of Chinghiz’s wife, daughter of “the Christian King David or Prester John,” and who used by divination to make many revelations to the Tartars. We have already said that there seems no ground for assigning a daughter of Aung Khan as wife to Chinghiz. But there was a niece of the former, named Abika, among the wives of Chinghiz. And Rashiduddin does relate a dream of the Kaan’s in relation to her. But it was to the effect that he was divinely commanded to give her away; and this he did next morning!

(Rawlins. Herod. IV. 67; Amm. Marcell. XXXI. 2; Delvio, Disq. Magic. 558; Mendoza, Hak. Soc. I. 47; Doolittle, 435-436; Hist. of Genghizcan, pp. 52-53; Preston’s al-Hariri, p. 183; P. della V. II. 865-866; Vigne, I. 46; D’Ohsson, I. 418-419).

[1] [On the Chinese divining-twig, see Dennys, Folk-lore of China, 57.—H. C.]

[2] [With reference to this passage from Rubruck, Mr. Rockhill says (195, note): “The mode of divining here referred to is apparently the same as that described by Polo. It must not however be confounded with rabdomancy, in which bundles of wands or arrows were used.” Ammianus Marcellinus (XXXI. 2. 350) says this mode of divination was practised by the Alans. “They have a singular way of divining: they take straight willow wands and make bundles of them, and on examining them at a certain time, with certain secret incantations, they know what is going to happen.”—H. C.]



[Illustration: Death of Chinghiz Khan. (From a miniature in the Livre des

And after both sides had rested well those two days, they armed for the fight and engaged in desperate combat; and it was the greatest battle that ever was seen. The numbers that were slain on both sides were very great, but in the end Chinghis Kaan obtained the victory. And in the battle Prester John was slain. And from that time forward, day by day, his kingdom passed into the hands of Chinghis Kaan till the whole was conquered.

I may tell you that Chinghis Kaan reigned six years after this battle, engaged continually in conquest, and taking many a province and city and stronghold. But at the end of those six years he went against a certain castle that was called CAAJU, and there he was shot with an arrow in the knee, so that he died of his wound. A great pity it was, for he was a valiant man and a wise.[NOTE 1]

I will now tell you who reigned after Chinghis, and then about the manners and customs of the Tartars.

NOTE 1.—Chinghiz in fact survived Aung Khan some 24 years, dying during his fifth expedition against Tangut, 18th August 1227, aged 65 according to the Chinese accounts, 72 according to the Persian. Sanang Setzen says that Kurbeljin Goa Khatún, the beautiful Queen of Tangut, who had passed into the tents of the conqueror, did him some bodily mischief (it is not said what), and then went and drowned herself in the Karamuren (or Hwang-ho), which thenceforth was called by the Mongols the Khátún-gol, or Lady’s River, a name which it in fact still bears. Carpini relates that Chinghiz was killed by lightning. The Persian and Chinese historians, however, agree in speaking of his death as natural. Gaubil calls the place of his death Lou-pan, which he says was in lat. 38°. Rashiduddin calls it Leung-Shan, which appears to be the mountain range still so called in the heart of Shensi.

The name of the place before which Polo represents him as mortally wounded is very variously given. According to Gaubil, Chinghiz was in reality dangerously wounded by an arrow-shot at the siege of Taitongfu in 1212. And it is possible, as Oppert suggests, that Polo’s account of his death before Caagiu (as I prefer the reading), arose out of a confusion between this circumstance and those of the death of Mangku Kaan, which is said to have occurred at the assault of Hochau in Sze-ch’uan, a name which Polo would write Caagiu, or nearly so. Abulfaragius specifically says that Mangku Kaan died by an arrow; though it is true that other authors say he died of disease, and Haiton that he was drowned; all which shows how excusable were Polo’s errors as to events occurring 50 to 100 years before his time. (See Oppert’s Presbyter Johannes, p. 76; De Mailla, IX. 275, and note; Gaubil, 18, 50, 52, 121; Erdmann, 443; Ss. Setzen, 103.)

It is only by referring back to ch. xlvii., where we are told that Chinghiz “began to think of conquering a great part of the world,” that we see Polo to have been really aware of the vast extent and aim of the conquests of Chinghiz; the aim being literally the conquest of the world as he conceived it; the extent of the empire which he initiated actually covering (probably) one half of the whole number of the human race. (See remarks in Koeppen, Die Relig. des Buddha, II. 86.)



Now the next that reigned after Chinghis Kaan, their first Lord,[NOTE 1] was CUY KAAN, and the third Prince was BATUY KAAN, and the fourth was ALACOU KAAN, the fifth MONGOU KAAN, the sixth CUBLAY KAAN, who is the sovereign now reigning, and is more potent than any of the five who went before him; in fact, if you were to take all those five together, they would not be so powerful as he is.[NOTE 2] Nay, I will say yet more; for if you were to put together all the Christians in the world, with their Emperors and their Kings, the whole of these Christians,—aye, and throw in the Saracens to boot,—would not have such power, or be able to do so much as this Cublay, who is the Lord of all the Tartars in the world, those of the Levant and of the Ponent included; for these are all his liegemen and subjects. I mean to show you all about this great power of his in this book of ours.

You should be told also that all the Grand Kaans, and all the descendants of Chinghis their first Lord, are carried to a mountain that is called ALTAY to be interred. Wheresoever the Sovereign may die, he is carried to his burial in that mountain with his predecessors; no matter an the place of his death were 100 days’ journey distant, thither must he be carried to his burial.[NOTE 3]

Let me tell you a strange thing too. When they are carrying the body of any Emperor to be buried with the others, the convoy that goes with the body doth put to the sword all whom they fall in with on the road, saying: “Go and wait upon your Lord in the other world!” For they do in sooth believe that all such as they slay in this manner do go to serve their Lord in the other world. They do the same too with horses; for when the Emperor dies, they kill all his best horses, in order that he may have the use of them in the other world, as they believe. And I tell you as a certain truth, that when Mongou Kaan died, more than 20,000 persons, who chanced to meet the body on its way, were slain in the manner I have told.[NOTE 4]

NOTE 1.—Before parting with Chinghiz let me point out what has not to my knowledge been suggested before, that the name of “Cambuscan bold” in Chaucer’s tale is only a corruption of the name of Chinghiz. The name of the conqueror appears in Fr. Ricold as Camiuscan, from which the transition to Cambuscan presents no difficulty. Camius was, I suppose, a clerical corruption out of Canjus or Cianjus. In the chronicle of St. Antonino, however, we have him called “Chinghiscan rectius Tamgius Cam” (XIX. c. 8). If this is not merely the usual blunder of t for c, it presents a curious analogy to the form Tankiz Khán always used by Ibn Batuta. I do not know the origin of the latter, unless it was suggested by tankis (Ar.) “Turning upside down.” (See Pereg. Quat., p. 119; I. B. III. 22, etc.)

NOTE 2.—Polo’s history here is inadmissible. He introduces into the list of the supreme Kaans Batu, who was only Khan of Kipchak (the Golden Horde), and Hulaku who was Khan of Persia, whilst he omits Okkodai, the immediate successor of Chinghiz. It is also remarkable that he uses the form Alacou here instead of Alaü as elsewhere; nor does he seem to mean the same person, for he was quite well aware that Alaü was Lord of the Levant, who sent ambassadors to the Great Khan Cúbláy, and could not therefore be one of his predecessors. The real succession ran: 1. Chinghiz; 2. Okkodai; 3. Kuyuk; 4. Mangku; 5. Kúblái.

There are quite as great errors in the history of Haiton, who had probably greater advantages in this respect than Marco. And I may note that in Teixeira’s abridgment of Mirkhond, Hulaku is made to succeed Mangku Kaan on the throne of Chinghiz. (Relaciones, p. 338.)

NOTE 3.—The ALTAI here certainly does not mean the Great South Siberian Range to which the name is now applied. Both Altai and Altun-Khan appear sometimes to be applied by Sanang Setzen to the Khingan of the Chinese, or range running immediately north of the Great Wall near Kalgan. (See ch. lxi. note I.) But in reference to this matter of the burial of Chinghiz, he describes the place as “the district of Yekeh Utek, between the shady side of the Altai-Khan and the sunny side of the Kentei-Khan.” Now the Kentei-Khan (khan here meaning “mountain”) is near the sources of the Onon, immediately to the north-east of Urga; and Altai-Khan in this connection cannot mean the hills near the Great Wall, 500 miles distant.

According to Rashiduddin, Chinghiz was buried at a place called Búrkán Káldún (“God’s Hill”), or Yekeh Kúrúk (“The Great Sacred or Tabooed Place”); in another passage he calls the spot Búdah Undúr (which means, I fancy, the same as Búrkán Káldún), near the River Selenga. Búrkán Kaldún is often mentioned by Sanang Setzen, and Quatremère seems to demonstrate the identity of this place with the mountain called by Pallas (and Timkowski) Khanoolla. This is a lofty mountain near Urga, covered with dense forest, and is indeed the first woody mountain reached in travelling from Peking. It is still held sacred by the Mongols and guarded from access, though the tradition of Chinghiz’s grave seems to be extinct. Now, as this Khanoolla (“Mount Royal,” for khan here means “sovereign,” and oolla “mountain”) stands immediately to the south of the Kenteimentioned in the quotation from S. Setzen, this identification agrees with his statement, on the supposition that the Khanoolla is the Altai of the same quotation. The Khanoolla must also be the Han mountain which Mongol chiefs claiming descent from Chinghiz named to Gaubil as the burial-place of that conqueror. Note that the Khanoolla, which we suppose to be the Altai of Polo, and here of Sanang Setzen, belongs to a range known as Khingan, whilst we see that Setzen elsewhere applies Altai and Altan-Khan to the other Khingan near the Great Wall.

Erdmann relates, apparently after Rashiduddin, that Chinghiz was buried at the foot of a tree which had taken his fancy on a hunting expedition, and which he had then pointed out as the place where he desired to be interred. It was then conspicuous, but afterwards the adjoining trees shot up so rapidly, that a dense wood covered the whole locality, and it became impossible to identify the spot. (Q. R. 117 seqq.; Timk. I. 115 seqq., II. 475-476; San. Setz. 103, 114-115, 108-109; Gaubil, 54; Erd. 444.)

[“There are no accurate indications,” says Palladius (l.c. pp. 11-13), “in the documents of the Mongol period on the burial-places of Chingiz Khan and of the Khans who succeeded him. The Yuan-shi or ‘History of the Mongol Dynasty in China,’ in speaking of the burial of the Khans, mentions only that they used to be conveyed from Peking to the north, to their common burial-ground in the K’i-lien Valley. This name cannot have anything in common with the ancient K’i-lien of the Hiung-nu, a hill situated to the west of the Mongol desert; the K’i-lien of the Mongols is to be sought more to the east. When Khubilai marched out against Prince Nayan, and reached the modern Talnor, news was received of the occupation of the Khan’s burial-ground by the rebels. They held out there very long, which exceedingly afflicted Khubilai [Yuan shi lui pien]; and this goes to prove that the tombs could not be situated much to the west. Some more positive information on this subject is found in the diary of the campaign in Mongolia in 1410, of the Ming Emperor Yung-lo [Pe ching lu]. He reached the Kerulen at the place where this river, after running south, takes an easterly direction. The author of the diary notes, that from a place one march and a half before reaching the Kerulen, a very large mountain was visible to the north-east, and at its foot a solitary high and pointed hillock, covered with stones. The author says, that the sovereigns of the house of Yuan used to be buried near this hill. It may therefore be plausibly supposed that the tombs of the Mongol Khans were near the Kerulen, and that the ‘K’i-lien’ of the Yuan shi is to be applied to this locality; it seems to me even, that K’i-lien is an abbreviation, customary to Chinese authors, of Kerulen. The way of burying the Mongol Khans is described in the Yuan shi (ch. ‘On the national religious rites of the Mongols’), as well as in the Ch’ue keng lu, ‘Memoirs of the time of the Yuan Dynasty.’ When burying, the greatest care was taken to conceal from outside people the knowledge of the locality of the tomb. With this object in view, after the tomb was closed, a drove of horses was driven over it, and by this means the ground was, for a considerable distance, trampled down and levelled. It is added to this (probably from hearsay) in the Ts’ao mu tze Memoirs (also of the time of the Yuan Dynasty), that a young camel used to be killed (in the presence of its mother) on the tomb of the deceased Khan; afterwards, when the time of the usual offerings of the tomb approached, the mother of this immolated camel was set at liberty, and she came crying to the place where it was killed; the locality of the tomb was ascertained in this way.”

The Archimandrite Palladius adds in a footnote: “Our well-known Mongolist N. Golovkin has told us, that according to a story actually current among the Mongols, the tombs of the former Mongol Khans are situated near Tasola Hill, equally in the vicinity of the Kerulen. He states also that even now the Mongols are accustomed to assemble on that hill on the seventh day of the seventh moon (according to an ancient custom), in order to adore Chingiz Khan’s tomb. Altan tobchi (translated into Russian by Galsan Gomboeff), in relating the history of the Mongols after their expulsion from China, and speaking of the Khans’ tombs, calls them Naiman tzagan gher, i.e. ‘Eight White Tents’ (according to the number of chambers for the souls of the chief deceased Khans in Peking), and sometimes simply Tzagan gher, ‘the White Tent,’ which, according to the translator’s explanation, denotes only Chingiz Khan’s tomb.”

“According to the Chinese Annals (T’ung kien kang mu), quoted by Dr. E. Bretschneider (Med. Res. I. p. 157), Chinghiz died near the Liu p’an shan in 1227, after having subdued the Tangut empire. On modern Chinese maps Liu p’an shan is marked south of the city of Ku yüan chou, department of P’ing liang, in Kan suh. The Yüan shí however, implies that he died in Northern Mongolia. We read there, in the annals, s.a. 1227, that in the fifth intercalary month the Emperor moved to the mountain Liu p’an shan in order to avoid the heat of the summer. In the sixth month the empire of the Hia (Tangut) submitted. Chinghiz rested on the river Si Kiang in the district of Ts’ing shui (in Kansuh; it has still the same name). In autumn, in the seventh month (August), on the day jen wu, the Emperor fell ill, and eight days later died in his palace Ha-lao-t’u on the River Sa-li. This river Sali is repeatedly mentioned in the Yüan shi, viz. in the first chapter, in connection with the first military doings of Chinghiz. Rashid reports (D’Ohsson, I. 58) that Chinghiz in 1199 retired to his residence Sari Kihar. The Yüan chao pi shi (Palladius’ transl., 81) writes the same nameSaari Keher (Keher in modern Mongol means ‘a plain’). On the ancient map of Mongolia found in the Yüan shi lei pien, Sa-li K’ie-rh is marked south of the river Wa-nan (the Onon of our maps), and close to Sa-li K’ie-rh we read: ‘Here was the original abode of the Yüan’ (Mongols). Thus it seems the passage in the Yüan history translated above intimates that Chinghiz died in Mongolia, and not near the Liu p’an shan, as is generally believed. The Yüan ch’ao pi shi (Palladius’ transl., 152) and the ‘Ts’in cheng lu (Palladius’ transl., 195) both agree in stating that, after subduing the Tangut empire, Chinghiz returned home, and then died. Colonel Yule, in his Marco Polo (I. 245), states ‘that Rashid calls the place of Chinghiz’ death Leung shan, which appears to be the mountain range still so-called in the heart of Shensi.’ I am not aware from what translation of Rashid, Yule’s statement is derived, but d’Ohsson (I. 375, note) seems to quote the same passage in translating from Rashid: ‘Liu-p’an-shan was situated on the frontiers of the Churche (empire of the Kin), Nangias (empire of the Sung) and Tangut;’ which statement is quite correct.”

We now come to the Mongol tradition, which places the tomb of Chinghiz in the country of the Ordos, in the great bend of the Yellow River.

Two Belgian missionaries, MM. de Vos and Verlinden, who visited the tomb of Chinghiz Khan, say that before the Mahomedan invasion, on a hill a few feet high, there were two courtyards, one in front of the other, surrounded by palisades. In the second courtyard, there were a building like a Chinese dwelling-house and six tents. In a double tent are kept the remains of the bokta (the Holy). The neighbouring tents contained various precious objects, such as a gold saddle, dishes, drinking-cups, a tripod, a kettle, and many other utensils, all in solid silver. (Missions Catholiques, No. 315, 18th June, 1875.)—This periodical gives (p. 293) a sketch of the tomb of the Conqueror, according to the account of the two missionaries.

Prjevalsky (Mongolia and Tangut) relates the story of the Khatún Gol (see supra, p. 245), and says that her tomb is situated at 11 versts north-east of lake of Dzaïdemin Nor, and is called by the Mongols Tumir-Alku, and by the Chinese Djiou-Djin Fu; one of the legends mentioned by the Russian traveller gives the Ordo country as the burial-place of Chinghiz, 200 versts south of lake Dabasun Nor; the remains are kept in two coffins, one of wood, the other of silver; the Khan prophesied that after eight or ten centuries he would come to life again and fight the Emperor of China, and being victorious, would take the Mongols from the Ordos back to their country of Khalka; Prjevalsky did not see the tomb, nor did Potanin.

“Their holiest place [of the Mongols of Ordos] is a collection of felt tents called ‘Edjen-joro,’ reputed to contain the bones of Jenghiz Khan. These sacred relics are entrusted to the care of a caste of Darhats, numbering some fifty families. Every summer, on the twenty-first day of the sixth moon, sacrifices are offered up in his honour, when numbers of people congregate to join in the celebration, such gatherings being called táilgan.” On the southern border of the Ordos are the ruins of Boro-balgasun [Grey town], said to date from Jenghiz Khan’s time. (Potanin, Proc. R. G. S. IX. 1887, p. 233.)

The last traveller who visited the tomb of Chinghiz is M. C. E. Bonin, in July 1896; he was then on the banks of the Yellow River in the northern part of the Ordo country, which is exclusively inhabited by nomadic and pastoral Mongols, forming seven tribes or hords, Djungar, Talat, Wan, Ottok, Djassak, Wushun and Hangkin, among which are eastward the Djungar and in the centre the Wan; according to their own tradition, these tribes descend from the seven armies encamped in the country at the time of Chinghiz’s death; the King of Djungar was 67 years of age, and was the chief of all the tribes, being considered the 37th descendant of the conqueror in a direct line. His predecessor was the Wushun Wang. M. Bonin gives (Revue de Paris, 15th February 1898) the following description of the tomb and of the country surrounding it. Between the yamen (palace) of the King (Wang) of Djungar and the tomb of Chinghiz-Khan, there are five or six marches made difficult by the sands of the Gobi, but horses and camels may be used for the journey. The road, southward through the desert, passes near the great lama-monastery called Barong-tsao or Si-tsao(Monastery of the West), and in Chinese San-t’ang sse (Three Temples). This celebrated monastery was built by the King of Djungar to hold the tablets of his ancestors—on the ruins of an old temple, said to have been erected by Chinghiz himself. More than a thousand lamas are registered there, forty of them live at the expense of the Emperor of China. Crossing afterwards the two upper branches of the Ulan Múren (Red River) on the banks of which Chinghiz was murdered, according to local tradition, close to the lake of Chahan Nor (White Lake), near which are the tents of the Prince of Wan, one arrives at last at the spot called Yeke-Etjen-Koro, in Mongol: the abode of the Great Lord, where the tomb is to be found. It is erected to the south-east of the village, comprising some twenty tents or tent-like huts built of earth. Two large white felt tents, placed side by side, similar to the tents of the modern Mongols, but much larger, cover the tomb; a red curtain, when drawn, discloses the large and low silver coffin, which contains the ashes of the Emperor, placed on the ground of the second tent; it is shaped like a big trunk, with great rosaces engraved upon it. The Emperor, according to local tradition, was cremated on the bank of the Ulan Muren, where he is supposed to have been slain. On the twenty-first day of the third moon the anniversary fête of Mongolia takes place; on this day of the year only are the two mortuary tents opened, and the coffin is exhibited to be venerated by people coming from all parts of Mongolia. Many other relics, dispersed all over the Ordo land, are brought thither on this occasion; these relics called in Mongol Chinghiz Bogdo (Sacred remains of Chinghiz) number ten; they are in the order adopted by the Mongols: the saddle of Chinghiz, hidden in the Wan territory; the bow, kept at a place named Hu-ki-ta-lao Hei, near Yeke Etjen-Koro; the remains of his war-horse, called Antegan-tsegun (more), preserved at Kebere in the Djungar territory; a fire-arm kept in the palace of the King of Djungar; a wooden and leather vase called Pao-lao-antri, kept at the place Shien-ni-chente; a wax figure containing the ashes of the Khan’s equerry, called Altaqua-tosu, kept at Ottok (one of the seven tribes); the remains of the second wife, who lay at Kiasa, on the banks of the Yellow River, at a place called on Prjevalsky’s map in Chinese Djiou-Djin-fu, and in Mongol Tumir-Alku; the tomb of the third wife of Chinghiz, who killed him, and lay to-day at Bagha-Ejen-Koro, “the abode of the little Sovereign,” at a day’s march to the south of the Djungar King’s palace; the very tomb of Yeke-Etjen-Koro, which is supposed to contain also the ashes of the first wife of the Khan; and last, his great standard, a black wood spear planted in the desert, more than 150 miles to the south of the tomb; the iron of it never gets rusty; no one dares touch it, and therefore it is not carried to Yeke-Etjen-Koro with the other relics for the yearly festival. (See also Rockhill, Diary, p. 29.) —H. C.]

NOTE 4.—Rashiduddin relates that the escort, in carrying Chinghiz to his burial, slew all whom they met, and that forty noble and beautiful girls were despatched to serve him in the other world, as well as superb horses. As Mangku Kaan died in the heart of China, any attempt to carry out the barbarous rule in his case would involve great slaughter. (Erd. 443; D’Ohsson, I. 381, II. 13; and see Cathay, 507-508.)

Sanang Setzen ignores these barbarities. He describes the body of Chinghiz as removed to his native land on a two-wheeled waggon, the whole host escorting it, and wailing as they went: “And Kiluken Bahadur of the Sunid Tribe (one of the Khan’s old comrades) lifted up his voice and sang—

  ‘Whilom Thou didst swoop like a Falcon: A rumbling waggon now
trundles thee off:
O My King!
Hast thou in truth then forsaken thy wife and thy children
and the Diet of thy People?
O My King!
Circling in pride like an Eagle whilom Thou didst lead us,
O My King!
But now Thou hast stumbled and fallen, like an unbroken Colt,
O My King!'” (p. 108.)

[“The burying of living men with the dead was a general custom with the tribes of Eastern Asia. Favourite servants and wives were usually buried in this way. In China, the chief wives and those concubines who had already borne children, were exempted from this lot. The Tunguz and other tribes were accustomed to kill the selected victims by strangulation. In China they used to be buried alive; but the custom of burying living men ceased in A.D. 1464. [Hwang ming ts’ung sin lu.] In the time of the present Manchu Dynasty, the burying of living men was prohibited by the Emperor Kang-hi, at the close of the 17th century, i.e. the forced burying; but voluntary sepulture remained in force [Yu chi wen]. Notwithstanding this prohibition, cases of forced burying occurred again in remote parts of Manchuria; when a concubine refused to follow her deceased master, she was forcibly strangled with a bow-string [Ninguta chi]. I must observe, however, that there is no mention made in historical documents of the existence of this custom with the Mongols; it is only an hypothesis based on the analogy between the religious ideas and customs of the Mongols and those of other tribes.” (Palladius, p. 13.)

In his Religious System of China, II., Dr. J. J. M. de Groot devotes a whole chapter (ix. 721 seqq.), Concerning the Sacrifice of Human Beings at Burials, and Usages connected therewith. The oldest case on record in China dates as far back as B.C. 677, when sixty-six men were killed after the ruler Wu of the state of Ts’in died.

The Official Annals of the Tartar Dynasty of Liao, quoted by Professor J. J. M. de Groot (Religious System of China, vol. ii. 698), state that “in the tenth year of the T’ung hwo period (A.D. 692) the killing of horses for funeral and burial rites was interdicted, as also the putting into the tombs of coats of mail, helmets, and articles and trinkets of gold and silver.” Professor de Groot writes (l.c. 709): “But, just as the placing of victuals in the graves was at an early date changed into sacrifices of food outside the graves, so burying horses with the dead was also modified under the Han Dynasty into presenting them to the dead without interring them, and valueless counterfeits were on such occasions substituted for the real animals.”—H. C.]



Now that we have begun to speak of the Tartars, I have plenty to tell you on that subject. The Tartar custom is to spend the winter in warm plains, where they find good pasture for their cattle, whilst in summer they betake themselves to a cool climate among the mountains and valleys, where water is to be found as well as woods and pastures.

Their houses are circular, and are made of wands covered with felts.[NOTE 1] These are carried along with them whithersoever they go; for the wands are so strongly bound together, and likewise so well combined, that the frame can be made very light. Whenever they erect these huts the door is always to the south. They also have waggons covered with black felt so efficaciously that no rain can get in. These are drawn by oxen and camels, and the women and children travel in them.[NOTE 2] The women do the buying and selling, and whatever is necessary to provide for the husband and household; for the men all lead the life of gentlemen, troubling themselves about nothing but hunting and hawking, and looking after their goshawks and falcons, unless it be the practice of warlike exercises.

They live on the milk and meat which their herds supply, and on the produce of the chase; and they eat all kinds of flesh, including that of horses and dogs, and Pharaoh’s rats, of which last there are great numbers in burrows on those plains.[NOTE 3] Their drink is mare’s milk.

They are very careful not to meddle with each other’s wives, and will not do so on any account, holding that to be an evil and abominable thing. The women too are very good and loyal to their husbands, and notable housewives withal.[NOTE 4] [Ten or twenty of them will dwell together in charming peace and unity, nor shall you ever hear an ill word among them.]

The marriage customs of Tartars are as follows. Any man may take a hundred wives an he so please, and if he be able to keep them. But the first wife is ever held most in honour, and as the most legitimate [and the same applies to the sons whom she may bear]. The husband gives a marriage payment to his wife’s mother, and the wife brings nothing to her husband. They have more children than other people, because they have so many wives. They may marry their cousins, and if a father dies, his son may take any of the wives, his own mother always excepted; that is to say the eldest son may do this, but no other. A man may also take the wife of his own brother after the latter’s death. Their weddings are celebrated with great ado.[NOTE 5]

NOTE 1.—The word here in the G. T. is “fennes,” which seems usually to mean ropes, and in fact Pauthier’s text reads: “Il ont mesons de verges et les cueuvrent de cordes.” Ramusio’s text has feltroni, and both Muller and the Latin of the S. G. have filtro. This is certainly the right reading. But whether fennes was ever used as a form of feltres (as pennes means peltry) I cannot discover. Perhaps some words have dropped out. A good description of a Kirghiz hut (35 feet in diameter), and exactly corresponding to Polo’s account, will be found in Atkinson’s Siberia, and another inVámbéry’s Travels. How comfortable and civilised the aspect of such a hut may be, can be seen also in Burnes’s account of a Turkoman dwelling of this kind. This description of hut or tent is common to nearly all the nomade tribes of Central Asia. The trellis-work forming the skeleton of the tent-walls is (at least among the Turkomans) loosely pivoted, so as to draw out and compress like “lazy-tongs.”

[Illustration: Dressing up a tent.]

Rubruquis, Pallas, Timkowski, and others, notice the custom of turning the door to the south; the reason is obvious. (Atkinson, 285; Vámb. 316; Burnes, III. 51; Conolly, I. 96) But throughout the Altai, Mr. Ney Elias informs me, K’alkas, Kirghiz, and Kalmaks all pitch their tents facing east. The prevailing winter wind is there westerly.

[Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, p. 56, note) says that he has often seen Mongol tents facing east and south-east. He adds: “It is interesting to find it noted in the Chou Shu (Bk. 50, 3) that the Khan of the Turks, who lived always on the Tu-kin mountains, had his tent invariably facing south, so as to show reverence to the sun’s rising place.”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Aeschylus already knows the

               “wandering Scyths who dwell
In latticed huts high-poised on easy wheels.”
(Prom. Vinct. 709-710.)

And long before him Hesiod says Phineus was carried by the Harpies—

  “To the Land of the Milk-fed nations, whose houses are waggons.”
(Strabo, vii. 3-9.)

Ibn Batuta describes the Tartar waggon in which he travelled to Sarai as mounted on four great wheels, and drawn by two or more horses:—

“On the waggon is put a sort of pavilion of wands laced together with narrow thongs. It is very light, and is covered with felt or cloth, and has latticed windows, so that the person inside can look out without being seen. He can change his position at pleasure, sleeping or eating, reading or writing, during the journey.” These waggons were sometimes of enormous size. Rubruquis declares that he measured between the wheel-tracks of one and found the interval to be 20 feet. The axle was like a ship’s mast, and twenty-two oxen were yoked to the waggon, eleven abreast. (See opposite cut.) He describes the huts as not usually taken to pieces, but carried all standing. The waggon just mentioned carried a hut of 30 feet diameter, for it projected beyond the wheels at least 5 feet on either side. In fact, Carpini says explicitly, “Some of the huts are speedily taken to pieces and put up again; such are packed on the beasts. Others cannot be taken to pieces, but are carried bodily on the waggons. To carry the smaller tents on a waggon one ox may serve; for the larger ones three oxen or four, or even more, according to the size.” The carts that were used to transport the Tartar valuables were covered with felt soaked in tallow or ewe’s milk, to make them waterproof. The tilts of these were rectangular, in the form of a large trunk. The carts used in Kashgar, as described by Mr. Shaw, seem to resemble these latter. (I. B. II. 381-382; Rub. 221; Carp. 6, 16.)

The words of Herodotus, speaking generally of the Scyths, apply perfectly to the Mongol hordes under Chinghiz: “Having neither cities nor forts, and carrying their dwellings with them wherever they go; accustomed, moreover, one and all, to shoot from horseback; and living not by husbandry but on their cattle, their waggons the only houses that they possess, how can they fail of being unconquerable?” (Bk. IV. ch. 46, p. 41, Rawlins.) Scythian prisoners in their waggons are represented on the Column of Theodosius at Constantinople; but it is difficult to believe that these waggons, at least as figured in Banduri, have any really Scythian character.

It is a curious fact that the practice of carrying these yurts or felt tents upon waggons appears to be entirely obsolete in Mongolia. Mr. Ney Elias writes: “I frequently showed your picture [that opposite] to Mongols, Chinese, and Russian border-traders, but none had ever seen anything of the kind. The only cart I have ever seen used by Mongols is a little low, light, roughly-made bullock-dray, certainly of Chinese importation.” The old system would, however, appear to have been kept up to our own times by the Nogai Tartars, near the Sea of Azof. (See note from Heber, in Clark’s Travels, 8vo ed. I. 440, and Dr. Clark’s vignette at p. 394 in the same volume.)

[Illustration: Mediaeval Tartar Huts and Waggons.]

NOTE 3.—Pharaoh’s Rat was properly the Gerboa of Arabia and North Africa, which the Arabs also regard as a dainty. There is a kindred animal in Siberia, called Alactaga, and a kind of Kangaroo-rat (probably the same) is mentioned as very abundant on the Mongolian Steppe. There is also the Zieselmaus of Pallas, a Dormouse, I believe, which he says the Kalmaks, even of distinction, count a delicacy, especially cooked in sour milk. “They eat not only the flesh of all their different kinds of cattle, including horses and camels, but also that of many wild animals which other nations eschew, e.g. marmots and zieselmice, beavers, badgers, otters, and lynxes, leaving none untouched except the dog and weasel kind, and also (unless very hard pressed) the flesh of the fox and the wolf.” (Pallas, Samml. I. 128; also Rubr. 229-230.)

[“In the Mongol biography of Chinghiz Khan (Mongol text of the Yuan ch’ao pi shi), mention is made of two kinds of animals (mice) used for food; the tarbagat (Aritomys Bobac) and kuchugur.” (Palladius, l.c. p. 14.) Regarding the marmots called Sogur by Rubruquis, Mr. Rockhill writes (p. 69): “Probably the Mus citillus, the Suslik of the Russians…. M. Grenard tells me that Soghur, more usually written sour in Turki, is the ordinary name of the marmot.”—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—”Their wives are chaste; nor does one ever hear any talk of their immodesty,” says Carpini;—no Boccaccian and Chaucerian stories.

NOTE 5.—”The Mongols are not prohibited from having a plurality of wives; the first manages the domestic concerns, and is the most respected.” (Timk. II. 310.) Naturally Polygamy is not so general among the Mongols as when Asia lay at their feet. The Buraets, who seem to retain the old Mongol customs in great completeness, are polygamists, and have as many wives as they choose. Polygamy is also very prevalent among the Yakuts, whose lineage seems to be Eastern Turk. (Ritter, III. 125; Erman, II. 346.)

Of the custom that entitled the son on succeeding to take such as he pleased of his deceased father’s wives, we have had some illustration (see Prologue, ch. xvii. note 2), and many instances will be found in Hammer’s or other Mongol Histories. The same custom seems to be ascribed by Herodotus to the Scyths (IV. 78). A number of citations regarding the practice are given by Quatremère. (Q. R. p. 92.) A modern Mongol writer in the Mélanges Asiatiques of the Petersburg Academy, states that the custom of taking a deceased brother’s wives is now obsolete, but that a proverb preserves its memory (II. 656). It is the custom of some Mahomedan nations, notably of the Afghans, and is one of those points that have been cited as a supposed proof of their Hebrew lineage.

“The Kalin is a present which the Bridegroom or his parents make to the parents of the Bride. All the Pagan nations of Siberia have this custom; they differ only in what constitutes the present, whether money or cattle.” (Gmelin, I. 29; see also Erman, II. 348.)



This is the fashion of their religion. [They say there is a Most High God of Heaven, whom they worship daily with thurible and incense, but they pray to Him only for health of mind and body. But] they have [also] a certain [other] god of theirs called NATIGAY, and they say he is the god of the Earth, who watches over their children, cattle, and crops. They show him great worship and honour, and every man hath a figure of him in his house, made of felt and cloth; and they also make in the same manner images of his wife and children. The wife they put on the left hand, and the children in front. And when they eat, they take the fat of the meat and grease the god’s mouth withal, as well as the mouths of his wife and children. Then they take of the broth and sprinkle it before the door of the house; and that done, they deem that their god and his family have had their share of the dinner.[NOTE 1]

Their drink is mare’s milk, prepared in such a way that you would take it for white wine; and a right good drink it is, called by them Kemiz.[NOTE 2]

The clothes of the wealthy Tartars are for the most part of gold and silk stuffs, lined with costly furs, such as sable and ermine, vair and fox-skin, in the richest fashion.

NOTE 1.—There is no reference here to Buddhism, which was then of recent introduction among the Mongols; indeed, at the end of the chapter, Polo speaks of their new adoption of the Chinese idolatry, i.e. Buddhism. We may add here that the Buddhism of the Mongols decayed and became practically extinct after their expulsion from China (1368-1369). The old Shamanism then apparently revived; nor was it till 1577 that the great reconversion of Mongolia to Lamaism began. This reconversion is the most prominent event in the Mongol history of Sanang Setzen, whose great-grandfather Khutuktai Setzen, Prince of the Ordos, was a chief agent in the movement.

The Supreme Good Spirit appears to have been called by the Mongols Tengri (Heaven), and Khormuzda, and is identified by Schmidt with the Persian Hormuzd. In Buddhist times he became identified with Indra.

Plano Carpini’s account of this matter is very like Marco’s: “They believe in one God, the Maker of all things, visible and invisible, and the Distributor of good and evil in this world; but they worship Him not with prayers or praises or any kind of service. Natheless, they have certain idols of felt, imitating the human face, and having underneath the face something resembling teats; these they place on either side of the door. These they believe to be the guardians of the flocks, from whom they have the boons of milk and increase. Others they fabricate of bits of silk, and these are highly honoured;… and whenever they begin to eat or drink, they first offer these idols a portion of their food or drink.”

The account agrees generally with what we are told of the original Shamanism of the Tunguses, which recognizes a Supreme Power over all, and a small number of potent spirits called Ongot. These spirits among the Buraets are called, according to one author, Nougait or Nogat, and according to Erman Ongotui. In some form of this same word, Nogait, Ongot, Onggod, Ongotui, we are, I imagine, to trace the Natigay of Polo. The modern representative of this Shamanist Lar is still found among the Buraets, and is thus described by Pallas under the name of Immegiljin: “He is honoured as the tutelary god of the sheep and other cattle. Properly, the divinity consists of two figures, hanging side by side, one of whom represents the god’s wife. These two figures are merely a pair of lanky flat bolsters with the upper part shaped into a round disk, and the body hung with a long woolly fleece; eyes, nose, breasts, and navel, being indicated by leather knobs stitched on. The male figure commonly has at his girdle the foot-rope with which horses at pasture are fettered, whilst the female, which is sometimes accompanied by smaller figures representing her children, has all sorts of little nicknacks and sewing implements.” Galsang Czomboyef, a recent Russo-Mongol writer already quoted, says also: “Among the Buryats, in the middle of the hut and place of honour, is the Dsaiagaçhi or ‘Chief Creator of Fortune.’ At the door is the Emelgelji, the Tutelary of the Herds and Young Cattle, made of sheepskins. Outside the hut is the Chandaghatu, a name implying that the idol was formed of a white hare-skin, the Tutelary of the Chase and perhaps of War. All these have been expelled by Buddhism except Dsaiagachi, who is called Tengri, and introduced among the Buddhist divinities.”

[Illustration: Tartar Idols and Kumis Churn.]

[Dorji Banzaroff, in his dissertation On the Black Religion, i.e. Shamanism, 1846, “is disposed to see in Natigay of M. Polo, the Ytoga of other travellers, i.e. the Mongol Etugen—’earth,’ as the object of veneration of the Mongol Shamans. They look upon it as a divinity, for its power as Delegei in echen, i.e. ‘the Lord of Earth,’ and on account of its productiveness, Altan delegei, i.e. ‘Golden Earth.'” Palladius (l.c. pp. 14-16) adds one new variant to what the learned Colonel Yule has collected and set forth with such precision, on the Shaman household gods. “The Dahurs and Barhus have in their dwellings, according to the number of the male members of the family, puppets made of straw, on which eyes, eyebrows, and mouth are drawn; these puppets are dressed up to the waist. When some one of the family dies, his puppet is taken out of the house, and a new puppet is made for every newly-born member of the family. On New Year’s Day offerings are made to the puppets, and care is taken not to disturb them (by moving them, etc.), in order to avoid bringing sickness upon the family.” (He lung kiang wai ki.)

(Cf. Rubruck, 58-59, and Mr. Rockhill’s note, 59-60.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—KIMIZ or KUMIZ, the habitual drink of the Mongols, as it still is of most of the nomads of Asia. It is thus made. Fresh mare’s milk is put in a well-seasoned bottle-necked vessel of horse-skin; a little kurút (see note 5, ch. liv.) or some sour cow’s milk is added; and when acetous fermentation is commencing it is violently churned with a peculiar staff which constantly stands in the vessel. This interrupts fermentation and introduces a quantity of air into the liquid. It is customary for visitors who may drop in to give a turn or two at the churn-stick. After three or four days the drink is ready.

Kumiz keeps long; it is wonderfully tonic and nutritious, and it is said that it has cured many persons threatened with consumption. The tribes using it are said to be remarkably free from pulmonary disease; and indeed I understand there is a regular Galactopathic establishment somewhere in the province of Orenburg for treating pulmonary patients with Kumiz diet.

It has a peculiar fore- and after-taste which, it is said, everybody does not like. Yet I have found no confession of a dislike to Kumiz. Rubruquis tells us it is pungent on the tongue, like vinum raspei (vin rapé of the French), whilst you are drinking it, but leaves behind a pleasant flavour like milk of almonds. It makes a man’s inside feel very cosy, he adds, even turning a weak head, and is strongly diuretic. To this last statement, however, modern report is in direct contradiction. The Greeks and other Oriental Christians considered it a sort of denial of the faith to drink Kumiz. On the other hand, the Mahomedan converts from the nomad tribes seem to have adhered to the use of Kumiz even when strict in abstinence from wine; and it was indulged in by the early Mamelukes as a public solemnity. Excess on such an occasion killed Bibars Bundukdari, who was passionately fond of this liquor.

The intoxicating power of Kumiz varies according to the brew. The more advanced is the vinous fermentation the less acid is the taste and the more it sparkles. The effect, however, is always slight and transitory, and leaves no unpleasant sensation, whilst it produces a strong tendency to refreshing sleep. If its good qualities amount to half what are ascribed to it by Dr. W. F. Dahl, from whom we derive some of these particulars, it must be the pearl of all beverages. “With the nomads it is the drink of all from the suckling upwards, it is the solace of age and illness, and the greatest of treats to all!”

There was a special kind called Kará Kumiz, which is mentioned both by Rubruquis and in the history of Wassáf. It seems to have been strained and clarified. The modern Tartars distil a spirit from Kumiz of which Pallas gives a detailed account. (Dahl, Ueber den Kumyss in Baer’s Beiträge, VII.; Lettres sur le Caucase et la Crimée, Paris, 1859, p. 81; Makrizi, II. 147; J. As. XI. 160; Levchine, 322-323; Rubr. 227-228, 335; Gold. Horde, p. 46; Erman, I. 296; Pallas, Samml. I. 132 seqq.)

[In the Si yu ki, Travels to the West of Ch’ang ch’un, we find a drink called tung lo. “The Chinese characters, tung lo,” says Bretschneider (Med. Res. I. 94), “denote according to the dictionaries preparations from mare’s or cow’s milk, as Kumis, sour milk, etc. In the Yuan shi (ch. cxxviii.) biography of the Kipchak prince Tú-tú-ha, it is stated that ‘black mare’s milk’ (evidently the cara cosmos of Rubruck), very pleasant to the taste, used to be sent from Kipchak to the Mongol court in China.” (On the drinks of the Mongols, see Mr. Rockhill’s note, Rubruck, p. 62.)—The Mongols indulge in sour milk (tarak) and distilled mare’s milk (arreki), but Mr. Rockhill (Land of the Lamas, 130) says he never saw them drink kumiz.—H. C.]

The mare’s-milk drink of Scythian nomads is alluded to by many ancient authors. But the manufacture of Kumiz is particularly spoken of by Herodotus. “The (mare’s) milk is poured into deep wooden casks, about which the blind slaves are placed, and then the milk is stirred round. That which rises to the top is drawn off, and considered the best part; the under portion is of less account.” Strabo also speaks of the nomads beyond the Cimmerian Chersonesus, who feed on horse-flesh and other flesh, mare’s-milk cheese, mare’s milk, and sour milk ([Greek: óxygalakta]) “which they have a particular way of preparing.” Perhaps Herodotus was mistaken about the wooden tubs. At least all modern attempts to use anything but the orthodox skins have failed. Priscus, in his narrative of the mission of himself and Maximin to Attila, says the Huns brought them a drink made frombarley which they called [Greek: Kámos]. The barley was, no doubt, a misapprehension of his. (Herod. Bk. iv. p. 2, in Rawl.; Strabo, VII. 4, 6; Excerpta de Legationibus, in Corp. Hist. Byzant. I. 55.)



All their harness of war is excellent and costly. Their arms are bows and arrows, sword and mace; but above all the bow, for they are capital archers, indeed the best that are known. On their backs they wear armour of cuirbouly, prepared from buffalo and other hides, which is very strong.[NOTE 1] They are excellent soldiers, and passing valiant in battle. They are also more capable of hardships than other nations; for many a time, if need be, they will go for a month without any supply of food, living only on the milk of their mares and on such game as their bows may win them. Their horses also will subsist entirely on the grass of the plains, so that there is no need to carry store of barley or straw or oats; and they are very docile to their riders. These, in case of need, will abide on horseback the livelong night, armed at all points, while the horse will be continually grazing.

Of all troops in the world these are they which endure the greatest hardship and fatigue, and which cost the least; and they are the best of all for making wide conquests of country. And this you will perceive from what you have heard and shall hear in this book; and (as a fact) there can be no manner of doubt that now they are the masters of the biggest half of the world. Their troops are admirably ordered in the manner that I shall now relate.

You see, when a Tartar prince goes forth to war, he takes with him, say, 100,000 horse. Well, he appoints an officer to every ten men, one to every hundred, one to every thousand, and one to every ten thousand, so that his own orders have to be given to ten persons only, and each of these ten persons has to pass the orders only to other ten, and so on; no one having to give orders to more than ten. And every one in turn is responsible only to the officer immediately over him; and the discipline and order that comes of this method is marvellous, for they are a people very obedient to their chiefs. Further, they call the corps of 100,000 men a Tuc; that of 10,000 they call a Toman; the thousand they call…; the hundred Guz; the ten….[NOTE 2] And when the army is on the march they have always 200 horsemen, very well mounted, who are sent a distance of two marches in advance to reconnoitre, and these always keep ahead. They have a similar party detached in the rear, and on either flank, so that there is a good look-out kept on all sides against a surprise. When they are going on a distant expedition they take no gear with them except two leather bottles for milk; a little earthenware pot to cook their meat in, and a little tent to shelter them from rain.[NOTE 3] And in case of great urgency they will ride ten days on end without lighting a fire or taking a meal. On such an occasion they will sustain themselves on the blood of their horses, opening a vein and letting the blood jet into their mouths, drinking till they have had enough, and then staunching it.[NOTE 4]

They also have milk dried into a kind of paste to carry with them; and when they need food they put this in water, and beat it up till it dissolves, and then drink it. [It is prepared in this way; they boil the milk, and when the rich part floats on the top they skim it into another vessel, and of that they make butter; for the milk will not become solid till this is removed. Then they put the milk in the sun to dry. And when they go on an expedition, every man takes some ten pounds of this dried milk with him. And of a morning he will take a half pound of it and put it in his leather bottle, with as much water as he pleases. So, as he rides along, the milk-paste and the water in the bottle get well churned together into a kind of pap, and that makes his dinner.[NOTE 5]]

When they come to an engagement with the enemy, they will gain the victory in this fashion. [They never let themselves get into a regular medley, but keep perpetually riding round and shooting into the enemy. And] as they do not count it any shame to run away in battle, they will [sometimes pretend to] do so, and in running away they turn in the saddle and shoot hard and strong at the foe, and in this way make great havoc. Their horses are trained so perfectly that they will double hither and thither, just like a dog, in a way that is quite astonishing. Thus they fight to as good purpose in running away as if they stood and faced the enemy, because of the vast volleys of arrows that they shoot in this way, turning round upon their pursuers, who are fancying that they have won the battle. But when the Tartars see that they have killed and wounded a good many horses and men, they wheel round bodily, and return to the charge in perfect order and with loud cries; and in a very short time the enemy are routed. In truth they are stout and valiant soldiers, and inured to war. And you perceive that it is just when the enemy sees them run, and imagines that he has gained the battle, that he has in reality lost it; for the Tartars wheel round in a moment when they judge the right time has come. And after this fashion they have won many a fight.[NOTE 6]

All this that I have been telling you is true of the manners and customs of the genuine Tartars. But I must add also that in these days they are greatly degenerated; for those who are settled in Cathay have taken up the practices of the Idolaters of the country, and have abandoned their own institutions; whilst those who have settled in the Levant have adopted the customs of the Saracens.[NOTE 7]

NOTE 1.—The bow was the characteristic weapon of the Tartars, insomuch that the Armenian historians often call them “The Archers.” (St. Martin, II. 133.) “CUIRBOULY, leather softened by boiling, in which it took any form or impression required, and then hardened.” (Wright’s Dict.) The English adventurer among the Tartars, whose account of them is given by Archbishop Ivo of Narbonne, in Matthew Paris (sub. 1243), says: “De coriis bullitis sibi arma levia quidem, sed tamen impenetrabilia coaptarunt.” This armour is particularly described by Plano Carpini (p. 685). See the tail-piece to Book IV.

[Mr. E. H. Parker (China Review, XXIV. iv. p. 205) remarks that “the first coats of mail were made in China in 1288: perhaps the idea was obtained from the Malays or Arabs.”—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—M. Pauthier has judiciously pointed out the omissions that have occurred here, perhaps owing to Rusticiano’s not properly catching the foreign terms applied to the various grades. In the G. Text the passage runs: “Et sachiés que les cent mille est apellé un Tut (read tuc) et les dix mille un Toman, et les por milier et por centenier et por desme.” In Pauthier’s (uncorrected) text one of the missing words is supplied: “Et appellent les C.M. un Tuc; et les X.M. un Toman; et un millier Guz por centenier et por disenier.” The blanks he supplies thus from Abulghazi: “Et un millier: [un Miny]; Guz, por centenier et [Un] por disenier.” The words supplied are Turki, but so is the Guz, which appears already in Pauthier’s text, whilst Toman and Tuc are common to Turki and Mongol. The latter word, Túk or Túgh, is the horse-tail or yak-tail standard which among so many Asiatic nations has marked the supreme military command. It occurs as Taka in ancient Persian, and Cosmas Indicopleustes speaks of it as Tupha. The Nine Orloks or Marshals under Chinghiz were entitled to the Tuk, and theirs is probably the class of command here indicated as of 100,000, though the figure must not be strictly taken. Timur ordains that every Amir who should conquer a kingdom or command in a victory should receive a title of honour, the Tugh and the Nakkárá. (Infra, Bk. II. ch. iv. note 3.) Baber on several occasions speaks of conferring the Tugh upon his generals for distinguished service. One of the military titles at Bokhara is still Tokhsabai, a corruption of Túgh-Sáhibi, (Master of the Tugh).

We find the whole gradation except the Tuc in a rescript of Janibeg, Khan of Sarai, in favour of Venetian merchants dated February 1347. It begins in the Venetian version: “La parola de Zanibeck allo puovolo di Mogoli, alli Baroni di Thomeni,[1] delli miera, delli centenera, delle dexiene.” (Erdmann, 576; D’Avezac, 577-578; Rémusat, Langues Tartares, 303; Pallas, Samml. I. 283; Schmidt, 379, 381; Baber, 260, etc.; Vámbéry, 374; Timour Inst. pp. 283 and 292-293; Bibl. de l’Ec. des Chartes, tom. lv. p. 585.)

The decimal division of the army was already made by Chinghiz at an early period of his career, and was probably much older than his time. In fact we find the Myriarch and Chiliarch already in the Persian armies of Darius Hystaspes. From the Tartars the system passed into nearly all the Musulman States of Asia, and the titles Min-bashi or Bimbashi, Yuzbashi, Onbashi, still subsist not only in Turkestan, but also in Turkey and Persia. The term Tman or Tma was, according to Herberstein, still used in Russia in his day for 10,000. (Ramus. II. 159.)

[The King of An-nam, Dinh Tiên-hòang (A.D. 968) had an army of 1,000,000 men forming 10 corps of 10 legions; each legion forming 10 cohorts of 10 centuries; each century forming 10 squads of 10 men.—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Ramusio’s edition says that what with horses and mares there will be an average of eighteen beasts (?) to every man.

NOTE 4.—See the Oriental account quoted below in Note 6.

So Dionysius, combining this practice with that next described, relates of the Massagetae that they have no delicious bread nor native wine:

          “But with horse’s blood
And white milk mingled set their banquets forth.”
(Orbis Desc. 743-744.)

And Sidonius:

          “Solitosque cruentum
Lac potare Getas, et pocula tingere venis.”
(Parag. ad Avitum.)

[“The Scythian soldier drinks the blood of the first man he overthrows in battle.” (Herodotus, Rawlinson, Bk. IV. ch. 64, p. 54.)—H. C.] “When in lack of food, they bleed a horse and suck the vein. If they need something more solid, they put a sheep’s pudding full of blood under the saddle; this in time gets coagulated and cooked by the heat, and then they devour it.” (Georg. Pachymeres, V. 4.) The last is a well-known story, but is strenuously denied and ridiculed by Bergmann. (Streifereien, etc. I. 15.) Joinville tells the same story. Hans Schiltberger asserts it very distinctly: “Ich hon och gesehen wann sie in reiss ylten, das sie ein fleisch nemen, und es dunn schinden und legents unter den sattel, und riten doruff; und essents wann sie hungert” (ch. 35). Botero had “heard from a trustworthy source that a Tartar of Perekop, travelling on the steppes, lived for some days on the blood of his horse, and then, not daring to bleed it more, cut off and ate its ears!” (Relazione Univers. p. 93.) The Turkmans speak of such practices, but Conolly says he came to regard them as hyperbolical talk (I. 45).

[Abul-Ghazi Khan, in his History of Mongols, describing a raid of Russian (Ourous) Cossacks, who were hemmed in by the Uzbeks, says: “The Russians had in continued fighting exhausted all their water. They began to drink blood; the fifth day they had not even blood remaining to drink.” (Transl. by Baron Des Maisons, St. Petersburg, II. 295.)]

NOTE 5.—Rubruquis thus describes this preparation, which is called Kurút: “The milk that remains after the butter has been made, they allow to get as sour as sour can be, and then boil it. In boiling, it curdles, and that curd they dry in the sun; and in this way it becomes as hard as iron-slag. And so it is stored in bags against the winter. In the winter time, when they have no milk, they put that sour curd, which they call Griut, into a skin, and pour warm water on it, and they shake it violently till the curd dissolves in the water, to which it gives an acid flavour; that water they drink in place of milk. But above all things they eschew drinking plain water.” From Pallas’s account of the modern practice, which is substantially the same, these cakes are also made from the leavings of distillation in making milk-arrack. The Kurút is frequently made of ewe-milk. Wood speaks of it as an indispensable article in the food of the people of Badakhshan, and under the same name it is a staple food of the Afghans. (Rubr. 229; Samml. I. 136; Dahl, u.s.; Wood, 311.)

[It is the ch’ura of the Tibetans. “In the Kokonor country and Tibet, this krut or chura is put in tea to soften, and then eaten either alone or mixed with parched barley meal (tsamba).” (Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 68, note.)—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—Compare with Marco’s account the report of the Mongols, which was brought by the spies of Mahomed, Sultan of Khwarizm, when invasion was first menaced by Chinghiz: “The army of Chinghiz is countless, as a swarm of ants or locusts. Their warriors are matchless in lion-like valour, in obedience, and endurance. They take no rest, and flight or retreat is unknown to them. On their expeditions they are accompanied by oxen, sheep, camels, and horses, and sweet or sour milk suffices them for food. Their horses scratch the earth with their hoofs and feed on the roots and grasses they dig up, so that they need neither straw nor oats. They themselves reck nothing of the clean or the unclean in food, and eat the flesh of all animals, even of dogs, swine, and bears. They will open a horse’s vein, draw blood, and drink it…. In victory they leave neither small nor great alive; they cut up women great with child and cleave the fruit of the womb. If they come to a great river, as they know nothing of boats, they sew skins together, stitch up all their goods therein, tie the bundle to their horses’ tails, mount with a hard grip of the mane, and so swim over.” This passage is an absolute abridgment of many chapters of Carpini. Still more terse was the sketch of Mongol proceedings drawn by a fugitive from Bokhara after Chinghiz’s devastations there. It was set forth in one unconscious hexameter:

Ámdand u khandand u sokhtand u kushtand u burdand u raftand!” “They came and they sapped, they fired and they slew, trussed up their loot and were gone!”

Juwaini, the historian, after telling the story, adds: “The cream and essence of whatever is written in this volume might be represented in these few words.”

A Musulman author quoted by Hammer, Najmuddin of Rei, gives an awful picture of the Tartar devastations, “Such as had never been heard of, whether in the lands of unbelief or of Islam, and can only be likened to those which the Prophet announced as signs of the Last Day, when he said: ‘The Hour of Judgment shall not come until ye shall have fought with the Turks, men small of eye and ruddy of countenance, whose noses are flat, and their faces like hide-covered shields. Those shall be Days of Horror!’ ‘And what meanest thou by horror?’ said the Companions; and he replied, ‘SLAUGHTER! SLAUGHTER!’ This beheld the Prophet in vision 600 years ago. And could there well be worse slaughter than there was in Rei, where I, wretch that I am, was born and bred, and where the whole population of five hundred thousand souls was either butchered or dragged into slavery?”

Marco habitually suppresses or ignores the frightful brutalities of the
Tartars, but these were somewhat less, no doubt, in Kúblái’s time.

The Hindustani poet Amir Khosru gives a picture of the Mongols more forcible than elegant, which Elliot has translated (III. 528).

This is Hayton’s account of the Parthian tactics of the Tartars: “They will run away, but always keeping their companies together; and it is very dangerous to give them chase, for as they flee they shoot back over their heads, and do great execution among their pursuers. They keep very close rank, so that you would not guess them for half their real strength.” Carpini speaks to the same effect. Baber, himself of Mongol descent, but heartily hating his kindred, gives this account of their military usage in his day: “Such is the uniform practice of these wretches the Moghuls; if they defeat the enemy they instantly seize the booty; if they are defeated, they plunder and dismount their own allies, and, betide what may, carry off the spoil.” (Erdmann, 364, 383, 620; Gold. Horde, 77, 80; Elliot, II. 388; Hayton in Ram. ch. xlviii.; Baber, 93; Carpini, p. 694.)

NOTE 7.—”The Scythians” (i.e. in the absurd Byzantine pedantry, Tartars), says Nicephorus Gregoras, “from converse with the Assyrians, Persians, and Chaldaeans, in time acquired their manners and adopted their religion, casting off their ancestral atheism…. And to such a degree were they changed, that though in former days they had been wont to cover the head with nothing better than a loose felt cap, and for other clothing had thought themselves well off with the skins of wild beasts or ill-dressed leather, and had for weapons only clubs and slings, or spears, arrows, and bows extemporised from the oaks and other trees of their mountains and forests, now, forsooth, they will have no meaner clothing than brocades of silk and gold! And their luxury and delicate living came to such a pitch that they stood far as the poles asunder from their original habits” (II. v. 6).

[1] This is Chomeni in the original, but I have ventured to correct it.



The way they administer justice is this. When any one has committed a petty theft, they give him, under the orders of authority, seven blows of a stick, or seventeen, or twenty-seven, or thirty-seven, or forty-seven, and so forth, always increasing by tens in proportion to the injury done, and running up to one hundred and seven. Of these beatings sometimes they die.[NOTE 1] But if the offence be horse-stealing, or some other great matter, they cut the thief in two with a sword. Howbeit, if he be able to ransom himself by paying nine times the value of the thing stolen, he is let off. Every Lord or other person who possesses beasts has them marked with his peculiar brand, be they horses, mares, camels, oxen, cows, or other great cattle, and then they are sent abroad to graze over the plains without any keeper. They get all mixt together, but eventually every beast is recovered by means of its owner’s brand, which is known. For their sheep and goats they have shepherds. All their cattle are remarkably fine, big, and in good condition.[NOTE 2]

They have another notable custom, which is this. If any man have a daughter who dies before marriage, and another man have had a son also die before marriage, the parents of the two arrange a grand wedding between the dead lad and lass. And marry them they do, making a regular contract! And when the contract papers are made out they put them in the fire, in order (as they will have it) that the parties in the other world may know the fact, and so look on each other as man and wife. And the parents thenceforward consider themselves sib to each other, just as if their children had lived and married. Whatever may be agreed on between the parties as dowry, those who have to pay it cause to be painted on pieces of paper and then put these in the fire, saying that in that way the dead person will get all the real articles in the other world.[NOTE 3]

Now I have told you all about the manners and customs of the Tartars; but you have heard nothing yet of the great state of the Grand Kaan, who is the Lord of all the Tartars and of the Supreme Imperial Court. All that I will tell you in this book in proper time and place, but meanwhile I must return to my story which I left off in that great plain when we began to speak of the Tartars.[NOTE 4]

NOTE 1.—The cudgel among the Mongols was not confined to thieves and such like. It was the punishment also of military and state offences, and even princes were liable to it without fatal disgrace. “If they give any offence,” says Carpini, “or omit to obey the slightest beck, the Tartars themselves are beaten like donkeys.” The number of blows administered was, according to Wassáf, always odd, 3, 5, and so forth, up to 77. (Carp. 712; Ilchan. I. 37.)

[“They also punish with death grand larceny, but as for petty thefts, such as that of a sheep, so long has one has not repeatedly been taken in the act, they beat him cruelly, and if they administer an hundred blows they must use an hundred sticks.” (Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 80.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—”They have no herdsmen or others to watch their cattle, because the laws of the Turks (i.e. Tartars) against theft are so severe…. A man in whose possession a stolen horse is found is obliged to restore it to its owner, and to give nine of the same value; if he cannot, his children are seized in compensation; if he have no children, he is slaughtered like a mutton.” (Ibn Batuta, II. 364.)

NOTE 3.—This is a Chinese custom, though no doubt we may trust Marco for its being a Tartar one also. “In the province of Shansi they have a ridiculous custom, which is to marry dead folks to each other. F. Michael Trigault, a Jesuit, who lived several years in that province, told it us whilst we were in confinement. It falls out that one man’s son and another man’s daughter die. Whilst the coffins are in the house (and they used to keep them two or three years, or longer) the parents agree to marry them; they send the usual presents, as if the pair were alive, with much ceremony and music. After this they put the two coffins together, hold the wedding dinner in their presence, and, lastly, lay them together in one tomb. The parents, from this time forth, are looked on not merely as friends but as relatives—just as they would have been had their children been married when in life.” (Navarrete, quoted by Marsden.) Kidd likewise, speaking of the Chinese custom of worshipping at the tombs of progenitors, says: “So strongly does veneration for this tribute after death prevail that parents, in order to secure the memorial of the sepulchre for a daughter who has died during her betrothal, give her in marriage after her decease to her intended husband, who receives with nuptial ceremonies at his own house a paper effigy made by her parents, and after he has burnt it, erects a tablet to her memory—an honour which usage forbids to be rendered to the memory of unmarried persons. The law seeks without effect to abolish this absurd custom.” (China, etc., pp. 179-180.)

[Professor J. J. M. de Groot (Religious System of China) gives several instances of marriages after death; the following example (II. 804-805) will illustrate the custom: “An interesting account of the manner in which such post-mortem marriages were concluded at the period when the Sung Dynasty governed the Empire, is given by a contemporary work in the following words: ‘In the northern parts of the Realm it is customary, when an unmarried youth and an unmarried girl breathe their last, that the two families each charge a match-maker to demand the other party in marriage. Such go-betweens are called match-makers for disembodied souls. They acquaint the two families with each other’s circumstances, and then cast lots for the marriage by order of the parents on both sides. If they augur that the union will be a happy one, (wedding) garments for the next world are cut out, and the match-makers repair to the grave of the lad, there to set out wine and fruit for the consummation of the marriage. Two seats are placed side by side, and a small streamer is set up near each seat. If these streamers move a little after the libation has been performed, the souls are believed to approach each other; but if one of them does not move, the party represented thereby is considered to disapprove of the marriage. Each family has to reward its match-maker with a present of woven stuffs. Such go-betweens make a regular livelihood out of these proceedings.'”—H. C.]

The Ingushes of the Caucasus, according to Klaproth, have the same custom: “If a man’s son dies, another who has lost his daughter goes to the father and says, ‘Thy son will want a wife in the other world; I will give him my daughter; pay me the price of the bride.’ Such a demand is never refused, even though the purchase of the bride amount to thirty cows.” (Travels, Eng. Trans. 345.)

NOTE 4.—There is a little doubt about the reading of this last paragraph. The G. T. has—”Mès desormès volun retorner à nostre conte en la grant plaingne où nos estion quant nos comechames des fais des Tartars,” whilst Pauthier’s text has “Mais desormais vueil retourner à mon conte que Je lessai d’or plain quant nous commençames des faiz des Tatars.” The former reading looks very like a misunderstanding of one similar to the latter, where d’or plain seems to be an adverbial expression, with some such meaning as “just now,” “a while ago.” I have not, however, been able to trace the expression elsewhere. Cotgrave has or primes, “but even now,” etc.; and has also de plain, “presently, immediately, out of hand.” It seems quite possible that d’or plain should have had the meaning suggested.



And when you leave Caracoron and the Altay, in which they bury the bodies of the Tartar Sovereigns, as I told you, you go north for forty days till you reach a country called the PLAIN OF BARGU.[NOTE 1] The people there are called MESCRIPT; they are a very wild race, and live by their cattle, the most of which are stags, and these stags, I assure you, they used to ride upon. Their customs are like those of the Tartars, and they are subject to the Great Kaan. They have neither corn nor wine.[They get birds for food, for the country is full of lakes and pools and marshes, which are much frequented by the birds when they are moulting, and when they have quite cast their feathers and can’t fly, those people catch them. They also live partly on fish.[NOTE 2]]

And when you have travelled forty days over this great plain you come to the ocean, at the place where the mountains are in which the Peregrine falcons have their nests. And in those mountains it is so cold that you find neither man or woman, nor beast nor bird, except one kind of bird calledBarguerlac, on which the falcons feed. They are as big as partridges, and have feet like those of parrots and a tail like a swallow’s, and are very strong in flight. And when the Grand Kaan wants Peregrines from the nest, he sends thither to procure them.[NOTE 3] It is also on islands in that sea that the Gerfalcons are bred. You must know that the place is so far to the north that you leave the North Star somewhat behind you towards the south! The gerfalcons are so abundant there that the Emperor can have as many as he likes to send for. And you must not suppose that those gerfalcons which the Christians carry into the Tartar dominions go to the Great Kaan; they are carried only to the Prince of the Levant.[NOTE 4]

Now I have told you all about the provinces northward as far as the Ocean Sea, beyond which there is no more land at all; so I shall proceed to tell you of the other provinces on the way to the Great Kaan. Let us, then, return to that province of which I spoke before, called Campichu.

NOTE 1.—The readings differ as to the length of the journey. In Pauthier’s text we seem to have first a journey of forty days from near Karakorúm to the Plain of Bargu, and then a journey of forty days more across the plain to the Northern Ocean. The G. T. seems to present only one journey of forty days (Ramusio, of sixty days), but leaves the interval from Karakorúm undefined. I have followed the former, though with some doubt.

NOTE 2.—This paragraph from Ramusio replaces the following in Pauthier’s text: “In the summer they got abundance of game, both beasts and birds, but in winter, there is none to be had because of the great cold.”

Marco is here dealing, I apprehend, with hearsay geography, and, as is common in like cases, there is great compression of circumstances and characteristics, analogous to the like compression of little-known regions in mediaeval maps.

The name Bargu appears to be the same with that often mentioned in Mongol history as BARGUCHIN TUGRUM or BARGUTI, and which Rashiduddin calls the northern limit of the inhabited earth. This commenced about Lake Baikal, where the name still survives in that of a river (Barguzin) falling into the Lake on the east side, and of a town on its banks (Barguzinsk). Indeed, according to Rashid himself, BARGU was the name of one of the tribes occupying the plain; and a quotation from Father Hyacinth would seem to show that the country is still called Barakhu.

[The Archimandrite Palladius (Elucidations, 16-17) writes:—”In the Mongol text of Chingis Khan’s biography, this country is called Barhu and Barhuchin; it is to be supposed, according to Colonel Yule’s identification of this name with the modern Barguzin, that this country was near Lake Baikal. The fact that Merkits were in Bargu is confirmed by the following statement in Chingis Khan’s biography: ‘When Chingis Khan defeated his enemies, the Merkits, they fled to Barhuchin tokum.’ Tokum signifies ‘a hollow, a low place,’ according to the Chinese translation of the above-mentioned biography, made in 1381; thus Barhuchin tokum undoubtedly corresponds to M. Polo’s Plain of Bargu. As to M. Polo’s statement that the inhabitants of Bargu were Merkits, it cannot be accepted unconditionally. The Merkits were not indigenous to the country near Baikal, but belonged originally,—according to a division set forth in the Mongol text of the Yuan ch’ao pi shi,—to the category of tribes living in yurts, i.e. nomad tribes, or tribes of the desert. Meanwhile we find in the same biography of Chingis Khan, mention of a people called Barhun, which belonged to the category of tribes living in the forests; and we have therefore reason to suppose that the Barhuns were the aborigines of Barhu. After the time of Chingis Khan, this ethnographic name disappears from Chinese history; it appears again in the middle of the 16th century. The author of theYyu (1543-1544), in enumerating the tribes inhabiting Mongolia and the adjacent countries, mentions the Barhu, as a strong tribe, able to supply up to several tens of thousands (?) of warriors, armed with steel swords; but the country inhabited by them is not indicated. The Mongols, it is added, call them Black Ta-tze (Khara Mongols, i.e. ‘Lower Mongols’).

“At the close of the 17th century, the Barhus are found inhabiting the
western slopes of the interior Hing’an, as well as between Lake Kulon and
River Khalkha, and dependent on a prince of eastern Khalkhas, Doro beile.
(Manchu title.)

“At the time of Galdan Khan’s invasion, a part of them fled to Siberia with the eastern Khalkhas, but afterwards they returned. [Mung ku yew mu ki and Lung sha ki lio.] After their rebellion in 1696, quelled by a Manchu General, they were included with other petty tribes (regarding which few researches have been made) in the category butkha, or hunters, and received a military organisation. They are divided into Old and New Barhu, according to the time when they were brought under Manchu rule. The Barhus belong to the Mongolian, not to the Tungusian race; they are sometimes considered even to have been in relationship with the Khalkhas. (He lung kiang wai ki and Lung sha ki lio.)

“This is all the substantial information we possess on the Barhu. Is there an affinity to be found between the modern Barhus and the Barhuns of Chingis Khan’s biography?—and is it to be supposed, that in the course of time, they spread from Lake Baikal to the Hing’an range? Or is it more correct to consider them a branch of the Mongol race indigenous to the Hing’an Mountains, and which received the general archaic name of Bargu, which might have pointed out the physical character of the country they inhabited [Kin Shi], just as we find in history the Urianhai of Altai and the Urianhai of Western Manchuria? It is difficult to solve this question for want of historical data.”—H. C.]

Mescript, or Mecri, as in G. T. The Merkit, a great tribe to the south-east of the Baikal, were also called Mekrit and sometimes Megrin. The Mekrit are spoken of also by Carpini and Rubruquis. D’Avezac thinks that the Kerait, and not the Merkit, are intended by all three travellers. As regards Polo, I see no reason for this view. The name he uses is Mekrit, and the position which he assigns to them agrees fairly with that assigned on good authority to the Merkit or Mekrit. Only, as in other cases, where he is rehearsing hearsay information, it does not follow that the identification of the name involves the correctness of all the circumstances that he connects with that name. We saw in ch. xxx. that under Pashai he seemed to lump circumstances belonging to various parts of the region from Badakhshan to the Indus; so here under Mekrit he embraces characteristics belonging to tribes extending far beyond the Mekrit, and which in fact are appropriate to the Tunguses. Rashiduddin seems to describe the latter under the name of Uriangkut of the Woods, a people dwelling beyond the frontier of Barguchin, and in connection with whom he speaks of their Reindeer obscurely, as well as of their tents of birch bark, and their hunting on snow-shoes.

The mention of the Reindeer by Polo in this passage is one of the interesting points which Pauthier’s text omits. Marsden objects to the statement that the stags are ridden upon, and from this motive mis-renders “li qual’ anche cavalcano,” as, “which they make use of for the purpose of travelling.” Yet he might have found in Witsen that the Reindeer are ridden by various Siberian Tribes, but especially by the Tunguses. Erman is very full on the reindeer-riding of the latter people, having himself travelled far in that way in going to Okhotsk, and gives a very detailed description of the saddle, etc., employed. The reindeer of the Tunguses are stated by the same traveller to be much larger and finer animals than those of Lapland. They are also used for pack-carriage and draught. Old Richard Eden says that the “olde wryters” relate that “certayne Scythians doe ryde on Hartes.” I have not traced to what he refers, but if the statement be in any ancient author it is very remarkable. Some old editions of Olaus Magnus have curious cuts of Laplanders and others riding on reindeer, but I find nothing in the text appropriate. We hear from travellers of the Lapland deer being occasionally mounted, but only it would seem in sport, not as a practice. (Erdmann, 189, 191; D’Ohsson, I. 103; D’Avezac, 534 seqq.; J. As. sér. II. tom. xi.; sér. IV. tom. xvii. 107; N. et E. XIII. i. 274-276; Witsen, II. 670, 671, 680; Erman, II. 321, 374, 429, 449 seqq., and original German, II. 347 seqq.; Notes on Russia, Hac. Soc. II. 224; J. A. S. B. XXIX. 379.)

The numerous lakes and marshes swarming with water-fowl are very characteristic of the country between Yakutsk and the Kolyma. It is evident that Marco had his information from an eye-witness, though the whole picture is compressed. Wrangell, speaking of Nijni Kolyma, says: “It is at the moulting season that the great bird-hunts take place. The sportsmen surround the nests, and slip their dogs, which drive the birds to the water, on which they are easily knocked over with a gun or arrow, or even with a stick…. This chase is divided into several periods. They begin with the ducks, which moult first; then come the geese; then the swans…. In each case the people take care to choose the time when the birds have lost their feathers.” The whole calendar with the Yakuts and Russian settlers on the Kolyma is a succession of fishing and hunting seasons which the same author details. (I. 149, 150; 119-121.)

NOTE 3.—What little is said of the Barguerlac points to some bird of the genus Pterocles, or Sand Grouse (to which belong the so-called Rock Pigeons of India), or to the allied Tetrao paradoxus of Pallas, now known as Syrrhaptes Pallasii. Indeed, we find in Zenker’s Dictionary thatBoghurtlák (or Baghírtlák, as it is in Pavet de Courteille’s) in Oriental Turkish is the Kata, i.e. I presume, the Pterocles alchata of Linnaeus, or Large Pin-tailed Sand Grouse. Mr. Gould, to whom I referred the point, is clear that the Syrrhaptes is Marco’s bird, and I believe there can be no question of it.

[Passing through Ch’ang-k’ou, Mr. Rockhill found the people praying for rain. “The people told me,” he says, in his Journey (p. 9), “that they knew long ago the year would be disastrous, for the sand grouse had been more numerous of late than for years, and the saying goes Sha-ch’i kuo, mai lao-po, ‘when the sand grouse fly by, wives will be for sale.'”—H. C.]

The chief difficulty in identification with the Syrrhaptes or any known bird, would be “the feet like a parrot’s.” The feet of the Syrrhaptes are not indeed like a parrot’s, though its awkward, slow, and waddling gait on the ground, may have suggested the comparison; and though it has very odd and anomalous feet, a circumstance which the Chinese indicate in another way by calling the bird (according to Hue) Lung Kio, or “Dragon-foot.” [Mr. Rockhill (Journey) writes in a note (p. 9): “I, for my part, never heard any other name than sha-ch’i, ‘sand-fowl,’ given them. This name is used, however, for a variety of birds, among others the partridge.”—H. C.] The hind-toe is absent, the toes are unseparated, recognisable only by the broad flat nails, and fitted below with a callous couch, whilst the whole foot is covered with short dense feathers like hair, and is more like a quadruped’s paw than a bird’s foot.

The home of the Syrrhaptes is in the Altai, the Kirghiz Steppes, and the country round Lake Baikal, though it also visits the North of China in great flights. “On plains of grass and sandy deserts,” says Gould (Birds of Great Britain, Part IV.), “at one season covered with snow, and at another sun-burnt and parched by drought, it finds a congenial home; in these inhospitable and little-known regions it breeds, and when necessity compels it to do so, wings its way … over incredible distances to obtain water or food.” Hue says, speaking of the bird on the northern frontier of China: “They generally arrive in great flights from the north, especially when much snow has fallen, flying with astonishing rapidity, so that the movement of their wings produces a noise like hail.” It is said to be very delicate eating. The bird owes its place in Gould’s Birds of Great Britain to the fact—strongly illustrative of its being moult volant, as Polo says it is—that it appeared in England in 1859, and since then, at least up to 1863, continued to arrive annually in pairs or companies in nearly all parts of our island, from Penzance to Caithness. And Gould states that it was breeding in the Danish islands. A full account by Mr. A. Newton of this remarkable immigration is contained in the Ibis for April, 1864, and many details in Stevenson’s Birds of Norfolk, I. 376 seqq. There are plates of Syrrhaptes in Radde’s Reisen im Süden von Ost-Sibirien, Bd. II.; in vol. v. of Temminck, Planches Coloriées, Pl. 95; in Gould, as above; in Gray, Genera of Birds, vol. iii. p. 517 (life size); and in the Ibis for April, 1860. From the last our cut is taken.

[See A. David et Oustalet, Oiseaux de la Chine, 389, on Syrrhaptes
or Syrrhaptes Paradoxus.—H. C.]

[Illustration: Syrrhaptes Pallasii.]

NOTE 4.—Gerfalcons (Shonkár) were objects of high estimation in the Middle Ages, and were frequent presents to and from royal personages. Thus among the presents sent with an embassy from King James II. of Aragon to the Sultan of Egypt, in 1314, we find three white gerfalcons. They were sent in homage to Chinghiz and to Kúblái, by the Kirghiz, but I cannot identify the mountains where they or the Peregrines were found. The Peregrine falcon was in Europe sometimes termed Faucon Tartare. (See Ménage s. v. Sahin.) The Peregrine of Northern Japan, and probably therefore that of Siberia, is identical with that of Europe. Witsen speaks of an island in the Sea of Tartary, from which falcons were got, apparently referring to a Chinese map as his authority; but I know nothing more of it. (Capmany, IV. 64-65; Ibis, 1862, p. 314; Witsen, II. 656.)

[On the Falco peregrinus, Lin., and other Falcons, see Ed. Blanc’s paper mentioned on p. 162. The Falco Saker is to be found all over Central Asia; it is called by the Pekingese Hwang-yng (yellow falcon), (David et Oustalet, Oiseaux de la Chine, 31-32.)—H. C.]



On leaving Campichu, then, you travel five days across a tract in which many spirits are heard speaking in the night season; and at the end of those five marches, towards the east, you come to a kingdom called ERGUIUL, belonging to the Great Kaan. It is one of the several kingdoms which make up the great Province of Tangut. The people consist of Nestorian Christians, Idolaters, and worshippers of Mahommet.[NOTE 1]

There are plenty of cities in this kingdom, but the capital is ERGUIUL. You can travel in a south-easterly direction from this place into the province of Cathay. Should you follow that road to the south-east, you come to a city called SINJU, belonging also to Tangut, and subject to the Great Kaan, which has under it many towns and villages.[NOTE 2] The population is composed of Idolaters, and worshippers of Mahommet, but there are some Christians also. There are wild cattle in that country [almost] as big as elephants, splendid creatures, covered everywhere but on the back with shaggy hair a good four palms long. They are partly black, partly white, and really wonderfully fine creatures [and the hair or wool is extremely fine and white, finer and whiter than silk. Messer Marco brought some to Venice as a great curiosity, and so it was reckoned by those who saw it]. There are also plenty of them tame, which have been caught young. [They also cross these with the common cow, and the cattle from this cross are wonderful beasts, and better for work than other animals.] These the people use commonly for burden and general work, and in the plough as well; and at the latter they will do full twice as much work as any other cattle, being such very strong beasts.[NOTE 3]

In this country too is found the best musk in the world; and I will tell you how ’tis produced. There exists in that region a kind of wild animal like a gazelle. It has feet and tail like the gazelle’s, and stag’s hair of a very coarse kind, but no horns. It has four tusks, two below and two above, about three inches long, and slender in form, one pair growing upwards, and the other downwards. It is a very pretty creature. The musk is found in this way. When the creature has been taken, they find at the navel between the flesh and the skin something like an impostume full of blood, which they cut out and remove with all the skin attached to it. And the blood inside this impostume is the musk that produces that powerful perfume. There is an immense number of these beasts in the country we are speaking of. [The flesh is very good to eat. Messer Marco brought the dried head and feet of one of these animals to Venice with him.[NOTE 4]]

The people are traders and artizans, and also grow abundance of corn. The province has an extent of 26 days’ journey. Pheasants are found there twice as big as ours, indeed nearly as big as a peacock, and having tails of 7 to 10 palms in length; and besides them other pheasants in aspect like our own, and birds of many other kinds, and of beautiful variegated plumage.[NOTE 5] The people, who are Idolaters, are fat folks with little noses and black hair, and no beard, except a few hairs on the upper lip. The women too have very smooth and white skins, and in every respect are pretty creatures. The men are very sensual, and marry many wives, which is not forbidden by their religion. No matter how base a woman’s descent may be, if she have beauty she may find a husband among the greatest men in the land, the man paying the girl’s father and mother a great sum of money, according to the bargain that may be made.

NOTE 1.—No approximation to the name of Erguiul in an appropriate position has yet been elicited from Chinese or other Oriental sources. We cannot go widely astray as to its position, five days east of Kanchau. Klaproth identifies it with Liangchau-fu; Pauthier with the neighbouring city of Yungchang, on the ground that the latter was, in the time of Kúblái, the head of one of the Lús, or Circles, of Kansuh or Tangut, which he has shown some reason for believing to be the “kingdoms” of Marco.

It is probable, however, that the town called by Polo Erguiul lay north of both the cities named, and more in line with the position assigned below to Egrigaya. (See note 1, ch. lviii.)

I may notice that the structure of the name Ergui-ul or Ergiu-ul, has a look of analogy to that of Tang-keu-ul, named in the next note.

[“Erguiul is Erichew of the Mongol text of the Yuen ch’ao pi shi, Si-liang in the Chinese history, the modern Liang chow fu. Klaproth, on the authority of Rashid-eddin, has already identified this name with that of Si-liang.” (Palladius, p. 18.) M. Bonin left Ning-h’ia at the end of July, 1899, and he crossed the desert to Liangchau in fifteen days from east to west; he is the first traveller who took this route: Prjevalsky went westward, passing by the residence of the Prince of Alashan, and Obrutchev followed the route south of Bonin’s.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—No doubt Marsden is right in identifying this with SINING-CHAU, now Sining-fu, the Chinese city nearest to Tibet and the Kokonor frontier. Grueber and Dorville, who passed it on their way to Lhasa, in 1661, call it urbs ingens. Sining was visited also by Huc and Gabet, who are unsatisfactory, as usually on geographical matters. They also call it “an immense town,” but thinly peopled, its commerce having been in part transferred to Tang-keu-ul, a small town closer to the frontier.

[Sining belonged to the country called Hwang chung; in 1198, under the Sung Dynasty, it was subjugated by the Chinese, and was named Si-ning chau; at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (from 1368), it was named Si-ning wei, and since 1726 Si-ning fu. (Cf. Gueluy, Chine, p. 62.) From Liangchau, M. Bonin went to Sining through the Lao kou kau pass and the Ta-Tung ho. Obrutchev and Grum Grijmaïlo took the usual route from Kanchau to Sining. After the murder of Dutreuil de Rhins at Tung bu _m_do, his companion, Grenard, arrived at Sining, and left it on the 29th July, 1894. Dr. Sven Hedin gives in his book his own drawing of a gate of Sining-fu, where he arrived on the 25th November, 1896.—H. C.]

Sining is called by the Tibetans Ziling or Jiling, by the Mongols Seling Khoto. A shawl wool texture, apparently made in this quarter, is imported into Kashmir and Ladak, under the name of S’ling. I have supposed Sining to be also the Zilm of which Mr. Shaw heard at Yarkand, and am answerable for a note to that effect on p. 38 of his High Tartary. But Mr. Shaw, on his return to Europe, gave some rather strong reasons against this. (See Proc. R. G. S. XVI. 245; Kircher, pp. 64, 66; Della Penna, 27; Davies’s Report, App. p. ccxxix.; Vigne, II. 110, 129.) [At present Sining is called by the Tibetans Seling K’ar or Kuar, and by the Mongols, Seling K’utun, K’ar and K’utun meaning “fortified city.” (Rockhill, Land of the Lamas, 49, note.)—H. C.]

[Mr. Rockhill (Diary of a Journey, 65) writes: “There must be some Scotch blood in the Hsi-ningites, for I find they are very fond of oatmeal and of cracked wheat. The first is called yen-mei ch’en, and is eaten boiled with the water in which mutton has been cooked, or with neat’s-foot oil (yang-t’i yu). The cracked wheat (mei-tzü fan) is eaten prepared in the same way, and is a very good dish.”—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The Dong, or Wild Yak, has till late years only been known by vague rumour. It has always been famed in native reports for its great fierceness. The Haft Iklím says that “it kills with its horns, by its kicks, by treading under foot, and by tearing with its teeth,” whilst the Emperor Humáyún himself told Sidi ‘Ali, the Turkish admiral, that when it had knocked a man down it skinned him from head to heels by licking him with its tongue! Dr. Campbell states, in the Journal of the As. Soc. of Bengal, that it was said to be four times the size of the domestic Yak. The horns are alleged to be sometimes three feet long, and of immense girth; they are handed round full of strong drink at the festivals of Tibetan grandees, as the Urus horns were in Germany, according to Caesar.

A note, with which I have been favoured by Dr. Campbell (long the respected Superintendent of British Sikkim) says: “Captain Smith, of the Bengal Army, who had travelled in Western Tibet, told me that he had shot many wild Yaks in the neighbourhood of the Mansarawar Lake, and that he measured a bull which was 18 hands high, i.e. 6 feet. All that he saw were black all over. He also spoke to the fierceness of the animal. He was once charged by a bull that he had wounded, and narrowly escaped being killed. Perhaps my statement (above referred to) in regard to the relative size of the Wild and Tame Yak, may require modification if applied to all the countries in which the Yak is found. At all events, the finest specimen of the tame Yak I ever saw, was not in Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, or Bootan, but in the Jardin des Plantes at Paris; and that one, a male, was brought from Shanghai. The best drawing of a Yak I know is that in Turner’s Tibet.”

[Lieutenant Samuel Turner gave a very good description of the Yak of Tartary, which he calls Soora-Goy or the Bushy-tailed Bull of Tibet. (Asiat. Researches, No. XXIII, pp. 351-353, with a plate.) He says with regard to the colour: “There is a great variety of colours amongst them, but black or white are the most prevalent. It is not uncommon to see the long hair upon the ridge of the back, the tail, tuft upon the chest, and the legs below the knee white, when all the rest of the animal is jet black.” A good drawing of “an enormous” Yak is to be found on p. 183 of Captain Wellby’sUnknown Tibet. (See also Captain Deasy’s work on Tibet, p. 363.) Prince Henri d’Orléans brought home a fine specimen, which he shot during his journey with Bonvalot; it is now exhibited in the galleries of the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. Some Yaks were brought to Paris on the 1st April, 1854, and the celebrated artist, Mme. Rosa Bonheur, made sketches after them. (See Jour. Soc. Acclimatation, June, 1900, 39-40.)—H. C.]

Captain Prjevalsky, in his recent journey (1872-1873), shot twenty wild Yaks south of the Koko Nor. He specifies one as 11 feet in length exclusive of the tail, which was 3 feet more; the height 6 feet. He speaks of the Yak as less formidable than it looks, from apathy and stupidity, but very hard to kill; one having taken eighteen bullets before it succumbed.

[Mr. Rockhill (Rubruck, 151, note) writes: “The average load carried by a Yak is about 250 lbs. The wild Yak bull is an enormous animal, and the people of Turkestan and North Tibet credit him with extraordinary strength. Mirza Haidar, in the Tarikhi Rashidi, says of the wild Yak or kutás: ‘This is a very wild and ferocious beast. In whatever manner it attacks one it proves fatal. Whether it strikes with its horns, or kicks, or overthrows its victim. If it has no opportunity of doing any of these things, it tosses its enemy with its tongue twenty gaz into the air, and he is dead before reaching the ground. One male kutás is a load for twelve horses. One man cannot possibly raise a shoulder of the animal.'” —Captain Deasy (In Tibet, 363) says: “In a few places on lofty ground in Tibet we found Yaks in herds numbering from ten to thirty, and sometimes more. Most of the animals are black, brown specimens being very rare. Their roving herds move with great agility over the steep and stony ground, apparently enjoying the snow and frost and wind, which seldom fail…. Yaks are capable of offering formidable resistance to the sportsman….'”—H. C.]

The tame Yaks are never, I imagine, “caught young,” as Marco says; it is a domesticated breed, though possibly, as with buffaloes in Bengal, the breed may occasionally be refreshed by a cross of wild blood. They are employed for riding, as beasts of burden, and in the plough. [Lieutenant S. Turner, l.c., says, on the other hand: “They are never employed in agriculture, but are extremely useful as beasts of burthen.”—H. C.] In the higher parts of our Himalayan provinces, and in Tibet, the Yak itself is most in use; but in the less elevated tracts several breeds crossed with the common Indian cattle are more used. They have a variety of names according to their precise origin. The inferior Yaks used in the plough are ugly enough, and “have more the appearance of large shaggy bears than of oxen,” but the Yak used for riding, says Hoffmeister, “is an infinitely handsomer animal. It has a stately hump, a rich silky hanging tail nearly reaching the ground, twisted horns, a noble bearing, and an erect head.” Cunningham, too, says that the Dso, one of the mixed breeds, is “a very handsome animal, with long shaggy hair, generally black and white.” Many of the various tame breeds appear to have the tail and back white, and also the fringe under the body, but black and red are the prevailing colours. Some of the crossbred cows are excellent milkers, better than either parent stock.

Notice in this passage the additional and interesting particulars given by Ramusio, e.g. the use of the mixed breeds. “Finer than silk,” is an exaggeration, or say an hyberbole, as is the following expression, “As big as elephants,” even with Ramusio’s apologetic quasi. Caesar says the Hercynian Urus was magnitudine paullo infra elephantos.

The tame Yak is used across the breadth of Mongolia. Rubruquis saw them at Karakorum, and describes them well. Mr. Ney Elias tells me he found Yaks common everywhere along his route in Mongolia, between the Tui river (long. circa 101°) and the upper valleys of the Kobdo near the Siberian frontier. At Uliasut’ai they were used occasionally by Chinese settlers for drawing carts, but he never saw them used for loads or for riding, as in Tibet. He has also seen Yaks in the neighbourhood of Kwei-hwa-ch’eng. (Tenduc, see ch. lix. note 1.) This may be taken as the eastern limit of the employment of the Yak; the western limit is in the highlands of Khokand.

These animals had been noticed by Cosmas [who calls them agriobous] in the 6th century, and by Aelian in the 3rd. The latter speaks of them as black cattle with white tails, from which fly-flappers were made for Indian kings. And the great Kalidása thus sang of the Yak, according to a learned (if somewhat rugged) version ascribed to Dr. Mill. The poet personifies the Himálaya:—

  “For Him the large Yaks in his cold plains that bide
Whisk here and there, playful, their tails’ bushy pride,
And evermore flapping those fans of long hair
Which borrowed moonbeams have made splendid and fair,
Proclaim at each stroke (what our flapping men sing)
His title of Honour, ‘The Dread Mountain King.'”

Who can forget Père Huc’s inimitable picture of the hairy Yaks of their caravan, after passing a river in the depth of winter, “walking with their legs wide apart, and bearing an enormous load of stalactites, which hung beneath their bellies quite to the ground. The monstrous beasts looked exactly as if they were preserved in sugar-candy.” Or that other, even more striking, of a great troop of wild Yaks, caught in the upper waters of the Kin-sha Kiang, as they swam, in the moment of congelation, and thus preserved throughout the winter, gigantic “flies in amber.”

(N. et E. XIV. 478; J. As. IX. 199; J. A. S. B. IX. 566, XXIV. 235; Shaw, p. 91; Ladak, p. 210; Geog. Magazine, April, 1874; Hoffmeister’s Travels, p. 441; Rubr. 288; Ael. de Nat. An. XV. 14; J. A. S. B. I. 342; Mrs. Sinnett’s Huc, pp. 228, 235.)

NOTE 4.—Ramusio adds that the hunters seek the animal at New Moon, at which time the musk is secreted.

The description is good except as to the four tusks, for the musk deer has canine teeth only in the upper jaw, slender and prominent as he describes them. The flesh of the animal is eaten by the Chinese, and in Siberia by both Tartars and Russians, but that of the males has a strong musk flavour.

The “immense number” of these animals that existed in the Himalayan countries may be conceived from Tavernier’s statement, that on one visit to Patna, then the great Indian mart for this article, he purchased 7673 pods of musk. These presumably came by way of Nepal; but musk pods of the highest class were also imported from Khotan viâ Yarkand and Leh, and the lowest price such a pod fetched at Yarkand was 250 tankas, or upwards of 4_l._ This import has long been extinct, and indeed the trade in the article, except towards China, has altogether greatly declined, probably (says Mr. Hodgson) because its repute as a medicine is becoming fast exploded. In Sicily it is still so used, but apparently only as a sort of decent medical viaticum, for when it is said “the Doctors have given him musk,” it is as much as to say that they have given up the patient.

[“Here Marco Polo speaks of musk; musk and rhubarb (which he mentions before, Sukchur, ch. xliii.) are the most renowned and valuable of the products of the province of Kansu, which comparatively produces very little; the industry in both these articles is at present in the hands of the Tanguts of that province [Su chow chi].” (Palladius, p. 18.)

Writing under date 15th February, 1892, from Lusar (coming from Sining), Mr. Rockhill says: “The musk trade here is increasing, Cantonese and Ssu-ch’uanese traders now come here to buy it, paying for good musk four times its weight in silver (ssu huan, as they say). The best test of its purity is an examination of the colour. The Tibetans adulterate it by mixing tsamba and blood with it. The best time to buy it is from the seventh to the ninth moon (latter part of August to middle of November).” Mr. Rockhill adds in a note: “Mongols call musk owo; Tibetans call it latsé. The best musk they say is ‘white musk,’ tsahan owo in Mongol, in Tibetan latsé karpo. I do not know whether white refers to the colour of the musk itself or to that of the hair on the skin covering the musk pouch.” (Diary of a Journey, p. 71.)—H. C.]

Three species of the Moschus are found in the Mountains of Tibet, and M. Chrysogaster which Mr. Hodgson calls “the loveliest,” and which chiefly supplies the highly-prized pod called Kághazi, or “Thin-as-paper,” is almost exclusively confined to the Chinese frontier. Like the Yak, theMoschus is mentioned by Cosmas (circa A.D. 545), and musk appears in a Greek prescription by Aëtius of Amida, a physician practising at Constantinople about the same date.

(Martini, p. 39; Tav., Des Indes, Bk. II. ch. xxiv.; J. A. S. B. XI. 285; Davies’s Rep. App. p. ccxxxvii.; Dr. Flückiger in Schweiz. Wochenschr. für Pharmacie, 1867; Heyd, Commerce du Levant, II. 636-640.)

NOTE 5.—The China pheasant answering best to the indications in the text, appears to be Reeves’s Pheasant. Mr. Gould has identified this bird with Marco’s in his magnificent Birds of Asia, and has been kind enough to show me a specimen which, with the body, measured 6 feet 8 inches. The tail feathers alone, however, are said to reach to 6 and 7 feet, so that Marco’s ten palms was scarcely an exaggeration. These tail-feathers are often seen on the Chinese stage in the cap of the hero of the drama, and also decorate the hats of certain civil functionaries.

[Illustration: Reeves’s Pheasant]

Size is the point in which the bird fails to meet Marco’s description. In that respect the latter would rather apply to the Crossoptilon auritum, which is nearly as big as a turkey, or to the glorious Múnál (Lopophorus impeyanus), but then that has no length of tail. The latter seems to be the bird described by Aelian: “Magnificent cocks which have the crest variegated and ornate like a crown of flowers, and the tail feathers not curved like a cock’s, but broad and carried in a train like a peacock’s; the feathers are partly golden, and partly azure or emerald-coloured.” (Wood’s Birds, 610, from which I have copied the illustration; Williams, M. K. I. 261; Ael. De Nat. An. XVI. 2.) A species of Crossoptilon has recently been found by Captain Prjevalsky in Alashan, the Egrigaia (as I believe) of next chapter, and one also by Abbé Armand David at the Koko Nor.

[See on the Phasianidae family in Central and Western Asia, David et Oustalet, Oiseaux de la Chine, 401-421; the Phasianus Reevesii or veneratus is called by the Chinese of Tung-lin, near Peking, Djeu-ky (hen-arrow); the Crossoptilon auritum is named Ma-ky.—H. C.]